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Canadian Leroy Lawes dies just hours before ceremony honouring his father

09-05-2010

From the Trentonian


Trenton man dies just hours before ceremony honouring his father
Leroy Lawes made the journey to Holland for the Liberation Ceremonies and to visit his fatherís grave.
Leroy Lawes said it was going to be the "trip of a lifetime."
It turned out to be much more ó the last trip of his life and a chance for the Trenton man to finally see his father's grave.
Leroy Lawes died in his sleep Tuesday, in a hotel near the place where his father had been killed decades earlier. He was 67.

Lawes was to have been the guest of honour at a dedication ceremony in Zutphen Wednesday morning where a bridge was named after Marshall Lawes, Leroy's father, and brother Cecil Lawes. The bridge is now called "Lawesbrug." Leroy Lawes was to have made a speech at the ceremony.

The Trenton resident couldn't wait to be in Holland for the 65th anniversary of the country's liberation by Canadian troops.

"It's already a very emotional time and I haven't even left for Holland yet,'' Lawes told QMI Agency just days before the trip April 28. "It will be a great privilege to be there. The Dutch are so respectful of the sacrifices made by thousands of Canadian soldiers. ''

Lawes' father Marshall died in the closing days of the war, killed by a sniper's bullet. His brother Cecil was killed just weeks later.

Leroy was only two years old when his father was killed. He had never been to Holland. The trip was a chance, he said, to piece together the last days of his father's life and to finally visit his father's grave.

Lawes' niece, Debbie Lawes, of Ottawa accompanied her uncle to Holland.


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Leroy Lawes is seen standing by a memorial cairn in Holland, on which is inscribed the name of his father and his uncle, both from Frankford, who died liberating the town of Zutphen. Lawes died hours after this photo was taken by his niece.


"After finding Leroy this morning we hesitated about going to the bridge opening," said Debbie Lawes from Holland. "It seemed all too sudden. But the Mayor of Zutphen dropped by the hotel to offer his condolences and said the dedication would still be happening and that Leroy would be a very central part of it. We decided to go. There were at least 200 people there, including officials from the Canadian embassy. It was incredibly moving. They decided to name the bridge after Marshall Lawes, his brother Cecil Lawes (who also died that month in the war) and Leroy as well."

"While his death is very tragic and unexpected to the family I think over time we will be able to take comfort in knowing he died fulfilling his dream. It's also notable that he died on Liberation Day in Holland - the 65th anniversary of Holland's liberation by the Canadians, including Marshall.

But Leroy Lawes did get to visit both his father's and uncle's graves at Holten cemetery where 1,354 Canadians are buried.

Monday, in an interview by phone from Holland, Leroy Lawes said it was heart-warming to witness the appreciation shown by the Dutch of the sacrifices made by thousands of Canadians.

"It's incredible and amazing that they do that," said Lawes at the cemetery. "It's pretty emotional for me."
Both Marshall and Cecil Lawes were born in Frankford. Leroy Lawes said his father enlisted in 1943 with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment. Cecil had enlisted around the same time. Both were transferred into the Glengarry Highlanders.

The Lawes brothers have their names inscribed on the Cenotaph in Frankford.

Leroy Lawes is survived by his daughters Tammy, Carolyn and Sherry of Trenton, and one brother, Glen, also of Trenton.

Retired pastor Henk Dykman came up with the idea of naming the bridge after Marshall Lawes.

Dykman was also at the ceremony Wednesday.

Dykman was only 11 at the time when the Highlanders launched their assault on the Village of Leesten, now part of Zutphen.

For 30 minutes artillery shells rained down on the village. It was only by chance that none hit the house where Dykman and members of his family were huddled.

Dykman said the infantry companies, were "stuck'' in a field, caught in the open by sniper and machine gunfire.

Dykman, now 76, immigrated to Canada in 1956, first settling in Vancouver. He moved to Guelph in 1978.

Dykman had always wanted to learn more about the Glengarry Highlanders, and what happened during the assault on Leesten.

It wasn't until the mid-1980s the Dykman finally met some of his liberators. After decades, he was finally able to piece together the story of the attack.

"I got to know a few of veterans of the regiment and actually met the five men who were in our house following the attack,'' said Dykman. "They remembered the house.''

But Dykman wanted to learn more about the 11 Highlanders who were killed decades earlier. He got to know Joe Sullivan, a veteran of the regiment and president of the regimental association.

That's when the idea of naming several streets of a new subdivision after the men who fell during the assault. The subdivision basically connected Leesten with the City of Zutphen.

Sullivan, on behalf of Dykman, wrote city officials. He received a positive response.

The subdivision plan was expanded to include more homes , additional street and a new bridge .


If anyone would like to send words of condolences to his family, they can be emailed directly to his eldest daughter Carolyn at:


clawes01@hotmail.com


 

Or mailed to:


Carolyn Lawes
171 West Street
Trenton, Ontario
K8V 2M8



 


Canadian Leroy Lawes dies just hours before ceremony honouring his father
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