MERIGOMISH - It took 75 years for Harriet Jenereaux to meet her father, but it was worth the wait.
The Merigomish resident, who was born in Prince Edward Island and taught for years in Cape Breton, was a recent recipient of Wish of a Lifetime that allowed her and her husband Keith to travel to his grave at a Canadian war cemetery in Groesbeek, Netherlands.
During the Second World War, Harriet’s father, Edison Alexander Smith, was a sergeant in the Canadian Army’s infantry regiment known as the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. In the spring of 1941, he left for the war while Harriet’s mother was pregnant, and was killed in battle crossing the Rhine in Holland on March 25, 1945.
Harriet said she always lived by the Psalm verse, “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart,” and the words rang true with this trip.
“It has always been a desire in my heart to go to my dad’s grave,” she said, adding that it was too painful for her family to speak of her father after his death so she grew up knowing little about him, but still felt a connection.
When her husband Keith was in the army, he would try to be transferred to Germany so they could be close enough to visit the grave, but he never got to live there.
It wasn’t until the couple was watching a television news feature that she learned of Wish of a Lifetime that grants wishes to seniors.
“I said to Keith, ‘I wonder if they would accept mine? It is probably awful expensive.’”
To which her husband replied, “we won’t know until we try.”
Wish of a Lifetime partnered with Philips Lifeline Canada to give the couple a trip they would not forget.
“We walked up the row and I got down on my knees and I was crying. I talked to him and told him he would be proud of my brother and that he had eight wonderful grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
A third organization, A Face for Every Grave, helped make the trip even more special by arranging to have Smith’s face placed on his grave as well as organizing a memorial service at the site.
Harriet said she experienced so many things and learned so much about her father, including standing on the exact spot where he died in battle, helping others escape gunfire.
Smith and his regiment landed on Juno Beach on D-Day, where he was wounded, but not fatally. Harriet said her father and her mother’s brother, Private Ralph Boulter, were killed in the same battle. He is credited with saving the life of Major David Dickson when he covered his body and protected the major from gunfire.
“Every time he went to Holland he always visited dad’s grave,” she said of Dickson.
Now that her wish of a lifetime has been fulfilled, Harriett says there is only one more thing left on her bucket list.
“Heaven is the next stop,” she said with a laugh. “That is the last thing on my bucket list.”