Prairie Post (West Edition)
Southern Alberta cadet honours the sacrifice of the fallen in poetry
Wilfred Lencucha was called up to serve with the Canadian Armed Forces just as the Second World War ended. Lencucha’s four older brothers also served in the military and at 95, the long-time former educator is still alive and in relatively good health.
Earlier this year, Lecucha’s daughter Deborah Hollingsworth discovered a poem her dad wrote at the age of 16 in 1942 when he was a cadet.
The poem called “To The Unreturned” is a tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in war so others could enjoy the freedom they fought to preserve.
One of six children, Lencucha loved the outdoors and sports, said Hollingsworth in an email.
He was extremely athletic, breaking the record at one time for the fastest climb to the top of Turtle Mountain, which he did in 57 minutes, Hollingsworth said.
“He worked many jobs in the Crowsnest Pass, including helping build the coal tipple, digging graves at the cemetery in Blairmore and working summers at the mine – anything to earn money to further his education,” wrote Hollingsworth.
With his earnings, Lencucha, who had been studying engineering turned his attention to education, eagling a B.Ed and M. Ed and later worked toward his PhD, “demonstrating his lifelong passion to further the quality of children’s education,” she wrote.
In his career, Lencucha worked as a teacher, principal, school superintendent and math consultant for the province.
“I was 15 when I met him and he was a wonderful teacher, just a marvellous teacher,” his longtime friend and life enhancement coach Wayne Bourne recalled of Lencucha, a resident of Lethbridge for the last 53 years.
Lencucha taught a 15-year-old Bourne in Stirling high school, among the subjects being writing.
“He’s the one that gave me all that encouragement and I ended up writing six books and I’ve got my first book published. And it’s all because of his encouragement,” said Bourne.
“He was just the most wonderful (man). He was like your big friend, you know,” said Bourne, recalling how Lencucha would play softball and other sports with students. That same athleticism Lencucha displayed as a youth became known to his students through their teacher’s involvement in extra-curricular sports.
“He’s the only teacher who would do that.” Lencucha was a patient teacher, said Bourne, who helped him develop his writing skills, working with the young student to build upon ideas presented in works that he would hand in to his teacher. “He was such a patient man and so understanding.” Lencucha inspired Bourne, who came to Stirling from B.C., to pursue a diploma in teaching after Bourne spent three years in broadcasting with CFCN and CFAC in Calgary, which he joined at the encouragement of the legendary Ed Whalen, known for his Stampede Wrestling commentaries.
Bourne visits Lencucha regularly and often passes words along from his fellow Stirling classmates, which helps Lencucha keep his self worth in his later years.
His poem goes:
To the Unreturned
Our joys have come, our fears are past, Lord, God, give us the strength to cast
From all this turmoil, strife and grief,
A just and everlasting peace.
Victory is ours this joyous day.
To those who lie along the way.
‘Neath the earth still scorched with ruthless war We bow our heads forever-more.
To those to whom we owe this peace
Our thoughts for them shall never cease. Rather let the torch of freedom burn
To light our hearts for those who shall not return. They fought and died that we may live,
Now in return could we not give
A silent prayer of silent thanks
To those who lie along the distant river’s bank.