GUELPH — Tears, hugs and laughter ensued as a family gathered at the Guelph Legion Wednesday to witness the return of a Memorial Cross to its rightful owner.
Veteran Susan Giebel travelled from Fort McMurray to Guelph to personally hand the medal to the family in person as 17 members of the Cook family gathered.
Legion president Roy Fagel began the ceremony as veterans gathered to honour Sergeant William .J. Cook and stood amazed as the story unfolded before them.
“This Memorial Cross is forwarded to you by the Minister of Defence on behalf of the government of Canada in memory of the ones who died in the service of his country,” said veteran Giebel with tears in her eyes as she presented the war medal to Cook’s son, George Cook.
Cook gently held the medal in his hands and looked at it with admiration.
“It is an honour that I wish my brother Frank and Gene were here to accept with me,” said Cook.
He said he never really knew his father until he came home in the summer of 1945 and was only able to get to know his father for six short years after the war.
“He was a carpenter after the war. I would help him build cupboards,” said Cook who says he still enjoys woodworking to this day.
He said besides the service medal, his father was awarded a coronation medal and efficiency medal for his service in the war.
Granddaughter Karen Waterfield said it seemed right that her uncle George, the only surviving son of Cook, received the medal.
She said after finding out the medal belongs to her family by recognizing the name in a previous GuelphToday article and matching a number on the medal with a certificate that Cook had, the entire family has gotten to learn a lot more about themselves.
She says it gives everyone a newfound appreciation for her grandfather’s legacy as medals, documents and certificates of Cook were placed on the table for family members to see.
“It's nice that our family got together. We don’t see each other that often anymore. You know people's lives go on,” said Waterfield.
Waterfield’s sister, Cathy Cooper said the entire occasion just opened new avenues to family learning.
“They’ve been to my house and they brought all these pictures of my dad when they were kids and his father and told us many stories that I wasn’t aware of,” said Cooper about her uncle.
“Uncle George had all these neat stories and neat pictures. It makes me think back to my childhood.”
Giebel found the medal this past summer and spent months researching the name through veteran affairs and piecing together information in an article found with the medal.
“A lot of people know the significance of the memorial cross and I knew right away I had to find the family and return the medal to its rightful place of owner,” said Giebel.
Overwhelmed with joy and disbelief, she said “It’s a journey that has come to a happy ending,” adding that its an honour to be able to present the medal to the family who till recently, didn't even know it existed.
“It's finally home,” she said.
Giebel was gifted a handmade quilt by Cook’s granddaughter Colleen Hunter that read “With thanks from the Cook family” with a centre design of poppies in connection to Guelph’s John McCrae.