Last November, the City of Vaughan created its first poppy mural at City Hall where residents and visitors contributed messages of peace, respect and gratitude. Each day until Remembrance Day, I watched the mural grow and it was amazing to see the final result – a beautiful wall that honoured all veterans and those who lost their lives in times of war. These messages were a tribute to the efforts and sacrifices our soldiers made for our country and freedom.
On Nov. 1, I joined my colleagues and local veterans once again to place the first poppies on the mural. I hope to see the wall grow even bigger this year with more messages from our community. Paper poppies will be available for anyone who wants to pay respect to our fallen soldiers and veterans.
A special display is also being showcased to honour the dedication and service of Vaughan veterans. This includes a feature on the City’s very own Major Addison Alexander “Lex” Mackenzie. You may recognize this name as it is a street in our City – Major Mackenzie Drive. The notable Vaughan resident served our country during the First World War and made an impact in our community by participating in both local and provincial politics until 1967.
Major Mackenzie started out as a young farmer who served in the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifle in France during the First World War where he participated in the horror of trench warfare on the Western Front. As a Captain, he won the Military Cross for valour at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, one of history’s bloodiest battles in which one-million men were wounded and killed. After he was promoted to the rank of Major, he took part in the great Canadian victory of Vimy Ridge in 1917 where he was severely wounded and almost lost his life.
Major Mackenzie’s brother, Donald Ross Mackenzie, also served in the trenches on the Western Front. Donald was enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force at the start of the First World War and attained the rank of Sergeant in the 2nd Canadian Railway Troops. After being sent overseas, he was severely wounded during a battle in Villers-Bretonneux and was reported missing when the enemy seized the area a week later.
While recovering from his wounds, Major Mackenzie set out to search for his younger brother after his family’s letters to the Canadian Records Office were unanswered. Unfortunately, his search was unsuccessful and it was not until 1919 when the Canadian military authorities were able to confirm Donald Ross Mackenzie was killed in action. Major Mackenzie managed to send a trench map home to show his family where Donald was last seen.
These stories of brave soldiers represent the greatest cost of war. We are fortunate to have some items and photos of Lex and Donald Mackenzie preserved in our archives so we can honour their memories, and pay tribute to all the men and women who gave their lives while fighting for our freedom.
I encourage Vaughan residents to visit City Hall to see this special display and to write a personal message on a poppy for the mural.
Lest We Forget.
Visit the City of Vaughan’s website at vaughan.ca.