New Legion president wants you! (to join)
Last November, Larry Cuerrier was elected as president of the Stanstead branch no. 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion, replacing David Woodard who served in that position for seven years.
Mr. Cuerrier ‘retired’ to Stanstead about eighteen years ago after serving in the military and then working and living in Toronto. “I grew up in Stanstead but after I joined the military, I travelled a lot and did short tours in the United States,” said Mr. Cuerrier in an interview with the Stanstead Journal. Mr. Cuerrier, who achieved the rank of Sergeant with the Royal Canadian Air Force, trained as a fire fighter for “Crash and Rescue”, serving on Canadian Air Force bases across the country.
Asked if airplane crashes in the Canadian military were a common occurrence, Mr. Cuerrier answered: “It happens. I had to deal with several crashes and fires. Often it was civilian planes that went down; civilians would use our airports, like those in Chicoutimi and Bagotville.”
Mr. Cuerrier took part in a rescue operation several decades ago that received a lot of media attention at the time. “An aircraft that was taking off from the Val-d’Or base was off the ground just twenty feet when an engine blew up. It went up and then crashed in the hills and bush just outside of Val-d’Or. We got to the crash site in time and had to lead twenty-six children for about three quarters of a mile to a mile out of the bush and to safety. Everyone survived but some of the passengers had serious injuries,” recounted Mr. Cuerrier, remembering the incident vividly.
After retiring from the military, Mr. Cuerrier worked at de Havilland Aircraft, in Toronto, as their Fire Captain and later as Chief of Security. “It was a large plant with 6,700 employees; Bombardier owns it now. But driving through the traffic in Toronto – I was so happy to come home. I always had in my thoughts that I would come back to Stanstead to retire. You just have to look around you – there’s no more beautiful spot in the world, even if the weather doesn’t always agree with us!”
A long-time member of the Stanstead Legion but never before on the Executive, Larry decided to run for president following the suggestion of a few members. “I wanted to see some changes like an increase in membership. We’ve gone to about one hundred and twentyfive members, from over two hundred, in just a few years,” he explained.
Legion branches rely on membership for everything: financing educational bursaries and awards for local youth and children; providing volunteers for social events; carrying out Remembrance Day activities; providing services to Veterans and their families, and more. “I’m not sure that the general public knows that anyone can now join the Legion. Before, you had to have served in the military, but now anyone can join as an ‘Associate Member’. The cost is $45 per year, per person,” said the president.
“I’d also like to get more people to come out to our events. We have a Mother’s Day Dance, on Saturday, May 10th, that’s open to everyone. We’ll have live music and serve food at the end of the evening,” said Mr. Cuerrier. The annual Canada Day Barbeque and baseball tournament for children will take place, as usual, the Saturday before Canada Day.
“It’s a challenge to keep it all running and keep everyone happy, but it’s a pleasant challenge and I think things will work out well. I’m looking forward to the Branch surviving well and growing along with the community and getting the community more involved with the Branch,” he added.
“Do you think you’ll be kept busy with your new position?” I asked. “I was at a meeting just yesterday about the upkeep of the Dufferin Heights Monument. It’s already keeping me busy!”
Larry Cuerrier, the Stanstead Legion’s new president who was elected last November, is seen here at Branch No. 5, in Stanstead.