|First World War veterans John Jack Friel, sitting, and his brother, Peter, pose for a photo. (Submitted Photo)
NORTH BAY - A First World War veteran buried for nearly 50 years in an unmarked grave at St. Mary's Cemetery in North Bay will finally receive a proper military funeral.
Pte. John Jack Friel is buried in Block G, Row 9, Grave 16 — but it looks more like a patch of grass between two gravestones.
Friel's 89-year-old nephew, George Friel, discovered it recently while trying to pay his respects.
“I was devastated (upon seeing the patch of grass). My uncle deserves more,” he said.
Friel was going through his mother's belongings after her death and discovered that his uncle was buried in North Bay.
“I was just a kid and didn't really know Jack,” Friel recalls. “He was a wanderer and a loner, but I wanted to go and visit his grave, lay some flowers and pay my respects.”
When Friel arrived at St. Mary's cemetery last month he couldn't find his uncle's grave. And there was no John Jack Friel on record.
But he didn't give up.
Friel had some hospital and church records. He knew his uncle was born on May 1, 1895 and joined the Canadian Army in Sudbury in 1916. He served three tours overseas. The Canadian war veteran died in a North Bay hospital on May 4, 1965. He was buried in St. Mary's Cemetery four days later.
“The only burial on that day — May 8, 1965 — was for a John Field,” Friel says, adding all the other information in the cemetery and church records was correct. “My uncle ended up in the graveyard with the wrong name.”
Lt. Col. Pat Bryden, commanding officer with The Algonquin Regiment stationed in Petawawa, says “misspelled names were typical of that time period when spelling wasn't the best.
“Many soldiers were illiterate at that time,” he says.
Bryden, who has been in contact with the family, has promised a full military funeral service for the veteran.
The grave marker will be paid by The Last Post Fund, a not-for-profit that ensures no war veteran, military disability pensioner or civilian is denied a funeral and burial because of lack of funds.
“As soon as the marker is in the ground, we will organize a proper ceremony,” Bryden says.
Friel says many family and friends plan to attend the funeral.
“I feel better and at peace knowing my uncle will receive the proper recognition.”