Amherst vet­eran dis­mayed by van­dal­ism of Vimy oak

Cana­dian Coast­ers have spent the sum­mer trav­el­ling the coun­try from coast to coast for their 50th an­niver­sary tour

The Amherst News - - CUMBERLAND COUNTY - By Christo­pher Good­ing

There are a lot of things mil­i­tary vet­eran Jack Berry has seen in his life, but noth­ing has hurt him more than the sight of a bro­ken oak.

“I’m 86-years-old and a mem­ber of the Le­gion for 60-years, I’ve never seen any­thing like this in my life,” Berry said, hold­ing the young sapling in his hands. “I’m just sick to my stom­ach.”

Berry has served in Europe and all over Canada and this dy­ing oak, he says, is not just any tree. It’s a di­rect de­scen­dent of a very spe­cific oak that once stood at the sight of France’s Vimy Ridge where Cana­di­ans de­fined their mil­i­tary prow­ess dur­ing the first World War.

Fol­low­ing the 1917 bat­tle one hun­dred years ago, one sol­dier gath­ered up a hand­ful of acorns from a half-buried oak on the bat­tle­field and later planted them at his On­tario home. The Vimy Oaks Le­gacy Cor­po­ra­tion, an en­tity formed to cre­ate liv­ing me­mo­ri­als at Vimy and across Canada, now pro­vide de­scen­dants of that oak to com­mu­ni­ties through ap­pli­ca­tion. Work­ing with the Town of Amherst, Berry and Amherst’s branch of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion thought they had suc­cess­fully met all of the qual­i­fi­ca­tions, which in­cluded mak­ing sure they oak would be in a prom­i­nent place in the com­mu­nity.

What they hadn’t planned for was cruel in­ten­tions.

“Some­time be­tween Sun­day and Tues­day it was snapped off [it’s roots]. Our hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist found it,” Amherst’ Re­cre­ation Di­rec­tor Bill Schur­man said. “Ob­vi­ously, we were sad, and con­tacted the po­lice chief and he was very quick to re­spond.”

The Amherst Po­lice is­sued a re­quest for as­sis­tance on so­cial me­dia look­ing for in­for­ma­tion on who was re­spon­si­ble, but Berry says there is very lit­tle pun­ish­ment that can out­weigh the sen­ti­ment con­nected with the branch and the le­gacy its con­nected with. The le­gion does have a sec­ond ap­pli­ca­tion for an­other Vimy oak and, if suc­cess­ful, Berry hopes the per­son re­spon­si­ble will be brave enough to come out and learn of the sac­ri­fices Cana­di­ans have made in wartime, and how some­thing as sim­ple as a tree can hold such sig­nif­i­cance in the hearts of vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies.

“[We] pur­chase things like this so we can re­mem­ber our he­roes,” Berry said. “We wouldn’t be here to­day if it weren’t for them… I’d like to in­vite who­ever did this to the new tree plant­ing cer­e­mony. Please come.”

If any­one saw or heard any­thing that might help au­thor­i­ties with this un­for­tu­nate act, please re­port it to Amherst Po­lice at 902667-8600.

Christo­pher Good­ing/Amherst News

A sense of sad­ness and dis­ap­point­ment came over Amherst’s Jack Berry when he learned a de­scen­dant of an oak present at the bat­tle for Vimy Ridge was de­stroyed this week.

Christo­pher Good­ing/Amherst News

Re­flect­ing on Canada’s mil­i­tary role at Vimy Ridge in 1917, the leaves of this oak sapling in vet­eran Jack Berry’s hands mir­ror its an­ces­tor, which was present dur­ing the in­tense bat­tle.

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