A sol­dier’s jour­ney

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON News Staff

While John Palmer lay on a truck on the beach in Nor­mandy dur­ing D-Day, he looked up at the sky and thought that all of the ex­plo­sions looked like fire­works.

It was a strange jux­ta­po­si­tion for the young sol­dier who was born in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1921. He had come to as­so­ciate fire­works with cel­e­bra­tion, not with the tragedy of war­fare.

But Mr. Palmer had known tragedy long be­fore he en­listed in the Royal Cana­dian Army Ser­vice Corps to fight in WWII. When he was only 14 years old, his fa­ther, Joseph, a dock­worker, died in an in­dus­trial ac­ci­dent. It was a sig­nif­i­cant trauma for his fam­ily, both emo­tion­ally and fi­nan­cially.

It may have been his fa­ther who in­spired John Palmer to join the army. Joseph Palmer had fought with the Cana­dian mil­i­tary in WWI shortly af­ter em­i­grat­ing from Hol­land in 1910; his son had al­ways been very con­sci- en­tious and com­mit­ted to fam­ily.

Ev­i­dently, he wanted a fam­ily so badly that he mar­ried a woman be­fore he was shipped overseas. His fam­ily can­not re­mem­ber the name of this woman. All they know is that she died of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and that Mr. Palmer learned of her death while he was fight­ing the war.


The heart­bro­ken sol­dier kept on. He was re­spon­si­ble for ship­ping sup­plies like am­mu­ni­tion and fuel to the fight­ing men.

He had a mo­tor­cy­cle which he would ride ev­ery­where to en­sure that the trucks were go­ing where they had been dis­patched.

At times he was ahead of the front lines; he had to move the am­mu­ni­tion up so it would be there when the guns got there.

It was one of the riski­est jobs in the mil­i­tary be­cause there was no in­fantry to back him up.

Mr. Palmer served his coun­try well and he left the mil­i­tary with the rank of Sergeant.

Ad­just­ing to post-war life was a chal­lenge for Mr. Palmer.

He had a son, John (also known as Jack) who he didn’t even know. He did var­i­ous jobs in Mon­treal be­fore land­ing a po­si­tion as an ap­pli­ance man­u­fac­turer in Mon­treal.

One night in 1945, Mr. Palmer’s mother in­tro­duced her son to a lady named Eva St. John at a Ger­man Dance Club. The two mar­ried in 1947 and, along with Jack, Eva had a ready-made fam­ily.

Eva St. John grew up in Maxville, where she was one of nine chil­dren.

Her fa­ther was Napoleon St. John. Her mother was Delina Poirier. Eva St. John went to work in Maxville as a care­taker for young chil­dren.

Af­ter she and John mar­ried, they had a son, Doug, who lives in Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia, where he does con­sult­ing work for Texas A&M Uni­ver­sity.

Although the young fam­ily en­joyed their time vis­it­ing Maxville, the lan­guage is­sues of Mon­treal liv­ing quickly took their toll on Mr. Palmer. Even­tu­ally, he and his wife de­cided to re­lo­cate the fam­ily to Cal­i­for­nia.

So in 1965, they left. Mr. Palmer didn’t have a job wait­ing for him but he knew what the em­ploy­ment sit­u­a­tion was like on the west coast and was con­fi­dent he’d be able to find some­thing.

In less than a week, he found an­other job at Gen­eral Elec­tric as a ser­vice tech­ni­cian.

Life took Mr. Palmer many places: New Brunswick, Mon­treal, Europe, Cal­i­for­nia, and, even­tu­ally, his fi­nal home in Ab­bots­ford, B.C., where he passed away on Feb. 13, 2018 at the age of 98. His wife pre­de­ceased him by two years.

But Maxville must have held a big part of his heart be­cause it’s there that he is buried. His ashes were laid to rest there on July 28 in the St. John fam­ily plot of the St. James Ceme­tery.

His son, Doug Palmer, says that his fa­ther found WWII to be both bru­tal and, in a weird way, the most ex­cit­ing time

“He re­mem­bered the Lon­don bomb­ings and go­ing into the sub­way to seek shel­ter from the rock­ets,” he says. “But de­spite that, there was an ele­ment of ca­ma­raderie. He was a young man vis­it­ing Europe and go­ing to beer halls.”

John Palmer


PROUD FAM­ILY: John Palmer's son Doug Palmer seated with his son Christo­pher be­hind him, Dar­lene Palmer seated with son Michael be­hind her.


LE­GION HON­OURS: Mem­bers of the Alexan­dria branch of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion at the fi­nal rest­ing place of John Palmer.

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