‘It’s in my blood, I sup­pose’

97-year-old vet­eran has been pin­ning pop­pies for 50 years

Tri-County Vanguard - - REMEMBRANCE DAY - JUANITA MERCER SALTWIRE NET­WORK

If you get gro­ceries at the How­ley Es­tates Sobeys in St. John’s, NL, you’ll see 97-year-old Sec­ond World War vet­eran Rod Deon.

This is his 50th con­sec­u­tive year vol­un­teer­ing with the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion’s poppy cam­paign.

Deon was born in 1921 in Yar­mouth, and by the early 1940s was work­ing as a ship­wright at the Hal­i­fax dock­yard.

He joined the Royal Cana­dian Navy in 1942 as a hull tech­ni­cian.

“They took me in just like that be­cause I was al­ready do­ing that kind of a job,” he says.

He even­tu­ally worked his way up to chief petty of­fi­cer with the en­gi­neers’ branch.

Deon was aboard the de­stroyer HMCS Ot­tawa dur­ing D-Day in 1944 when it was tasked with pro­tect­ing the in­va­sion forces. The Ot­tawa sank three German sub­marines that year – two of the U-boats were sunk within the span of three days.

“We stayed up night and day for three days with­out sleep to chase those two U-boats un­til we man­aged to get them,” Deon re­calls.

He’s hard of hear­ing to­day – partly be­cause of age, but mostly be­cause of the war.

“The guns were right over my head – my of­fice was right on the bow, and about 10 feet above me were the big 4.7-inch guns and I was right un­der­neath there. The noise was so bad I couldn’t hear.”

To this day, Deon de­scribes a steady noise in his head.

“Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week I have noise in my head – never stops.”

It’s the same rea­son he uses a cane.

“My legs are OK – it’s my bal­ance. I need a cane in case I fall. It’s the bal­ance, it’s in my ears –some­thing to do with those big guns and my loss of hear­ing.”

Still, he con­sid­ers him­self lucky.

The rea­son Deon par­tic­i­pates in the poppy cam­paign year af­ter year is to help those who aren’t so lucky.

“That’s what the poppy does – it helps the vet­er­ans,” he says.

Poppy funds are used to help vet­er­ans in a range of ways – from pro­vid­ing grants for ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties such as food, heat­ing costs, and med­i­ca­tion, to ed­u­ca­tional bur­saries for children and grand­chil­dren of vet­er­ans, and even sup­port­ing meals-on-wheels and sim­i­lar ser­vices in com­mu­ni­ties where vet­er­ans would ben­e­fit.

Af­ter the war, Deon and his wife moved to Toronto, where they raised their fam­ily.

In 1968, a neigh­bour knocked on his door and said a group of peo­ple were look­ing to start a le­gion in the Don Mills area.

“I said, ‘Yes, by all means, I’d like to join.’”

The Royal Cana­dian Le­gion Branch 617 was born and Deon hasn’t missed a poppy cam­paign since.

“It’s a bit of a habit with me – I’ve been cam­paign­ing for many years. It’s in my blood, I sup­pose.”

Deon and his wife moved to St. John’s a few years ago to be closer to their daugh­ter, but he quickly signed up with the lo­cal le­gion in Pleas­antville, Branch 56.

While Deon said he feels “re­ally good” for his age, nowa­days he doesn’t want to “overdo it” so he vol­un­teers twice a week dur­ing the cam­paign.

JOE GIB­BONS

Rod Deon, 97, is a naval vet­eran of the Sec­ond World War who was born in Yar­mouth. He’s been vol­un­teer­ing with the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion’s poppy cam­paign for 50 con­sec­u­tive years.

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