THE LAST HIKE

Agnes Bishop,73, hikes a moun­tain to re­mem­ber her late son and other fallen sol­diers

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front page - BY DANETTE DOO­LEY danette@nl.rogers.com

When Agnes Bishop and her son Craig Gil­lam climbed to Mark Rock 14 years ago, they had no idea it would be Gil­lam’s last hike to the moun­tain just out­side South Branch.

Nor could ei­ther have pre­dicted that Bishop would one day re­turn to the moun­tain — not with her only son by her side, but rather in his mem­ory.

Sgt. Craig Gil­lam of South Branch was a sol­dier with the Royal Cana­dian Dra­goons. He died in Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2006. He was 40 years old.

“Ev­ery year when Craig would come home we’d go up to the Mark Rock. I told Craig then ( dur­ing their hike 14 years ago) I’m not go­ing to be able to make this trip up here any­more,” Bishop re­called dur­ing a re­cent phone in­ter­view.

Hon­our the sol­diers

Thanks to ef­forts led by Colin and Cindy Sey­mour of Port aux Basques, the trail lead­ing to the moun­tain — which had grown in over the years — has been cleared, and on June 23 Bishop was among an es­ti­mated 30plus peo­ple who hiked to the top of the moun­tain to hon­our Gil­lam and all of the Cana­dian sol­diers who lost their lives in Afghanistan.

Dur­ing the trek, 158 yel­low rib­bons – each con­tain­ing the name of a fallen sol­dier – were placed along the trail to mark the way to the top.

Bishop and her hus­band Gra­ham live in Cor­ner Brook.

They both made it to the top of the moun­tain, as did their daugh­ter Lisa Bishop Janes and her hus­band Trevor Grimes.

Bishop has dealt with some health is­sues over the years. When she started the hike, she had no idea if she would make it to the top. There were times when she needed a helping hand to ma­noeu­vre over the rocks and the rugged ter­rain.

How­ever, Bishop took her time and, the fur­ther up she got, the more driven she was to keep go­ing.

“By the time I got up (to the top of the moun­tain) I was tired, but I was so proud that I made it. I just sat on the ground. I was so ex­cited but over­whelmed,” she said.

When it comes to her son’s per­son­al­ity and char­ac­ter traits, the ap­ple re­ally didn’t fall far from the tree.

Her son was a very de­ter­mined man, Bishop said.

“If he said he was go­ing to do some­thing, he would get it done, no mat­ter what.”

Bishop de­scribed Gil­lam as a won­der­ful son, brother, fa­ther, sol­dier and friend to ev­ery­one.

He would go out of his way to help oth­ers, she said.

“He was very gen­er­ous and car­ing. He loved his fam­ily and his mil­i­tary fam­ily,” she said.

Gil­lam and his wife Mau­reen (who died in 2014) have a son, Stephen and a daugh­ter, Gale.

Bishop said, in ad­di­tion to his fam­ily and friends, her son loved fish­ing, hunt­ing, farm­ing, hik­ing, and rid­ing. He also en­joyed hockey and mar­tial arts.

Her son was a prankster, she said, and loved tor­ment­ing his sis­ters — Lisa, Cindy and Janet.

The me­mo­rial

Colin and Cindy Sey­mour have been work­ing on the trail to Mark Rock Moun­tain for sev­eral years and have erected a me­mo­rial to Gil­lam at the top of the moun­tain.

Bishop said it’s dif­fi­cult to find words to express her thanks to the cou­ple for what they have done to hon­our all Cana­dian sol­diers who died in Afghanistan.

“I lost one son but I gained an­other,” she said. “I feel like I’ve adopted Cindy and Colin.

“There are no words to ex­plain how we (the fam­i­lies of the fallen sol­diers) all ap­pre­ci­ate what they’ve done.”

Just shy of her 73rd birth­day, Bishop and 85-year-old Classie Mar­shall sat for a rest at the top of the moun­tain.

The irony of their com­bined ages wasn’t lost on these two strong-willed hik­ers.

“(Classie’s) age and my age adds up to 158. That’s the num­ber of rib­bons they placed along the trail.

And we felt all of those 158 sol­diers with us, push­ing us up (to the top of the moun­tain),” said Bishop.

“There are no words to ex­plain how we (the fam­i­lies of the fallen sol­diers) all ap­pre­ci­ate what they’ve done.”

Agnes Bishop

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

Agnes and Gra­ham Bishop crest­ing the top of the moun­tain.

Classie Mar­shall, 85, and Agnes Bishop, 73, en­joyed a well-earned rest af­ter hik­ing to the top of Mark Rock.

Agnes Bishop hold­ing her son Craig’s ribbon when she came back down from the hike up Mark Rock on June 23.

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