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McGrane Legion ladies auxiliary celebrates 60 years

LAC LA BICHE - The Lac La Biche's Royal Canadian Legion McGrane Branch 28 Ladies Auxiliary hits a milestone this year. It was 60 years ago this June that 21 area women banded together to form the group that has supported the local Legion for decades.

While the creation of the auxiliary took some work — in notes written by the late Ernie Shanks, a veteran and one-time Legion president, about its inception he says, "a committee of Legion members approached Father (J.E.) McGrane who was the president of the Legion at that time. At first Father McGrane was not in favour of the Ladies Auxiliary, but later thought it would 'be a god blessing for the club'.Dodger Clark was the founding president of the organization.

In the decades since they began, a rotating roster of women have helped to raise awareness and funding for the local legion, helping to create the money needed to expand the lakeshore's historic building and support its members.

"The addition of the Ladies Auxiliary helped the Legion financially, as the ladies organized several social events, such as bingos, and catered many events in Lac La Biche," states Shanks' notes.

Those notes are part of some extensive history digging the current auxiliary members have been doing to commemorate the anniversary. A large public celebration was initially planned — but pandemic concerns put those plans aside. So instead, the current membership of the Legion Ladies Auxiliary met at charter member Sophie Hamar's home last week to put together a story and share some memories.

"One of the strongest memories I have," says Hamar, "was the year we catered every event we possibly could, in order to raise funds for the Legion to pay off the mortgage for the new addition."

That year — she can't recall when — but remembers the feeling of presenting the cheque "with the men holding a meeting" that would lead to the burning of a copy of the building's mortgage.

The extent of the dedication to the cause by the auxiliary members comes through in other memories of the ladies' efforts, recalls Hamar.

"The head catering cook during this year was Irma Amiot, and the ladies had so many events that Irma brought a cot into the Legion kitchen, so she could nap between a lunch event and a dinner one."

In later years, the ladies also raised the money to put in the original viewing deck on the lakefront across from the Legion, and continue to host fundraising events to continue to help with the operations of the Legion as well as community programs.

Heading towards the next 60 years of service and dedication, 11 current members, lead by Ladies Auxiliary President Raymonde Lett hope to attract more women to the historic and energizing volunteer group.

"If anyone is interested in what we do, we invite them to join. It is a rewarding experience," she said.

*With the assistance from Kyla Robb

Rob McKinley

About the Author: Rob McKinley

Rob has been in the media, marketing and promotion business for 30 years, working in the public sector, as well as media outlets in major metropolitan markets, smaller rural communities and Indigenous-focused settings.
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