Posted by Carol Hutchinson on Oct 31, 2018
The Rotary Club of Toronto has a long and proud tradition of honouring Remembrance Day and paying tribute and respect to the men and women who have served our country.    The very first Rotary Remembrance Day program was November 11, 1922 in the King Edward Hotel, four years after the end of the First World War and one year after the Parliament of Canada declared in 1921 an Armistice Day to coincide with the end of World War I.   The speaker at that first Rotary Remembrance Day meeting was Reverend John Burke of Newman Hall in Toronto and the title was Tribute to Our Soldiers.   For the next fourteen years every Friday preceding Remembrance Day the guest speaker was a prominent member of the clergy in Toronto who would try to find and express some spiritual meaning to the losses and sacrifices of the Great War.
Three years before the beginning of World War II in 1936 the theme of remembrance disappeared from the programmes at the very time when it was most especially needed.    On November 11, 1938 ten months before the outbreak of World War II our speaker’s topic was What Munich Means to Canada and this foreign policy expert spoke of “the logical expansion of Germany eastward while Britain and France held Western Europe”   How wrong he was!   It was the last Remembrance Day speech prior to the outbreak of World War II in September 1939.
In 1946, a year after the defeat of Hitler, the theme of Remembrance was restored and every year since then the theme remains Remembrance:   Lest We Forget.   There have been some patterns however.   When I first joined the Club in 1985 the Remembrance Day meeting featured one of our esteemed members who served in battle—heroes such as Bob Foster, Ted Shuter, Don Armitage, Norm Simpson, Elgin Coutts and in 2002 the last member to grace us was the late John Gregory.   From 2003 onwards in part because of the War against Terror and Afghanistan our speaker each year as a leading member of the defence staff addressed the Club about contemporary issues.   Brigadier General Fred Lewis in General Rick Hillier in 2006 were particularly memorable.
Today’s Remembrance Day meeting November 9, 2018—the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I—returns us to our roots with an esteemed Past President who served in World War II speaking about the continuing importance of Remembrance in our Club’s heritage and tradition.