Emily Vance photo - William Reeve has tracked down the descendants of a Parksville-area man buried in France who died in the Second World War. He’s reuniting the granddaughter of Private Alexander Edwin Shaw with a piece of family history – a Memorial Cross.

Vancouver Island man helps reunite Parksville family with a piece of history

Silver Cross medal to be returned to family members on Remembrance Day

When Port Hardy’s William Reeve visited a Canadian war cemetery in France to pay his respects to fallen soldiers, he had no idea that one day he would be tracking down the family members of a Parksville man who lay buried there, to reunite them with a piece of family history.

Since 2016, Reeve has been on the hunt for the relatives of Private Alexander Edwin Shaw, after his friend Heather Jones discovered a Memorial Cross pendant amongst her things while packing for a move.

The Memorial Cross, or Silver Cross as it’s more commonly known, is awarded to mothers and widows of Canadian soldiers who died as a result of active duty.

In the mid-1980s, Jones’s mother–in–law worked at Arrowsmith Lodge, a care facility in Parksville. Her husband had purchased a suitcase from a garage sale held by the Lodge.

READ MORE: Qualicum Beach author remembers wartime in London

It wasn’t until years later than the family discovered the Silver Cross medal tucked deep within the suitcase, which had been owned by a resident named Molly Shaw.

Reeve has an extensive background in family history and genealogy research, and Jones had asked him to try and track down any living relatives of Shaw’s that might be interested in having the piece of family history.

Digging into family history is a particular fascination of Reeve’s.

“It’s kind of like a hobby – a detective work hobby, with no blood and gore and dead bodies and court cases. Finding out what became of people, or who their ancestors were, or why they went where and what they did and so on,” said Reeve.

Reeve is originally from Port Hardy, but often spends time in Parksville. He’s researched the Shaw family, and found that they have deep roots in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area.

“Apparently they go back to the mid–1800s in Nanaimo. He was born in Coombs, or Parksville, or Qualicum Beach – somewhere in this area. Before he went to the service he was here most of his life, or all of his life,” said Reeve.

“I’ve actually put together in the computer a little family tree for this Shaw family. Which I will pass a copy of to the people to whom I give this Silver Cross.”

READ MORE: Parksville man disheartened by notes on windshield saying he’s not a ‘real’ veteran

Using online records kept by Veteran Affairs Canada, he’s tracked down a bit of information about Private Alexander Edwin Shaw.

The date of Shaw’s death is listed as July 24, 1944. He rests now in Beny–Sur–Mer Canadian War Cemetery outside Calvados, France, the resting place of Canadian soldiers killed in the early stages of the Battle of Normandy.

Using a combination of birth, marriage and death records at the provincial archives, Reeve has been able to successfully track Shaw’s relatives.

The death records in the archives tend to only appear about 20 years after someone’s death, but he says that’s where obituaries pick up the trail. They often list living family members.

“Where the death records in the archives disappear, because they’re too recent, the obits in the newspaper take off. They only go back about 10-12 years, but they’re helpful,” said Reeve.

READ MORE: Meet the B.C. veteran who helped fight to recognize Remembrance Day

In this way, he’s been able to track down Cilka Shaw from Black Creek – Private Shaw’s granddaughter. He had spoken to another grandchild, but wanted to make sure he was giving the medal to the person in the family who would value it most. Cilka seemed like the right candidate.

“She or her brother have the other medals awarded to this serviceman for his service in the Second World War. They had kind of wondered why there was no Silver Cross amongst them, but they hadn’t really obsessed about it,” said Reeve.

He’ll be meeting up with Cilka and her husband to hand the medal off on Remembrance Day.

For Reeve, the conclusion to this puzzle piece is satisfying.

“It’s a feeling of accomplishment. You know, it’s not like I’ve discovered a cure for some disease, but at the end of days, weeks, sometimes years of research – to actually reach the conclusion and actually solve the problem gives you a good feeling of accomplishment,” said Reeve.

It’s far from the only project for Reeve. He’s trying to track two other military service project medals, and has made good progress on another one, recently tracking down a living relative in Calgary for a medal awarded to a family member in 1953.

“I have many projects on the go,” said Reeve with a laugh.

Check back for part two of this story soon, where Reeve connects with Cilka Shaw to hand off the medal.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 


Emily Vance photo - William Reeve has tracked down the descendants of a Parksville-area man buried in France who died in the Second World War. He’s reuniting the granddaughter of Private Alexander Edwin Shaw with a piece of family history – a Memorial Cross.

Just Posted

Campaign aims to raise $50K for young family of deceased Vancouver Island skydiver

James Smith, 34, died July 5 following incident in Nanoose Bay

Cowichan rallying around family after rare disorder leaves teen partially paralyzed

Sammy Dubois, 14, disgnosed with rare neurological disorder

Missing Port Alberni man found deceased

47-year-old had been missing since late June: RCMP

TV star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

VIDEO: Victoria’s Raging Grannies call for end to public funding of for-profit senior homes

Organizer says COVID-19 has made senior home issues more apparent

Sooke Crisis Centre closes doors

Services previously offered to be dispersed throughout community support groups

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

RCMP disarm man experiencing mental health crisis in Campbell River

Man pulled a knife on officers and then held it to his own throat expressing a desire to die

Saanich police identify suspect in Brydon Park assault

No charges sworn, no arrest made as of July 9

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

17-year-old girl from Nanaimo reported missing

RCMP asking for help finding Trisha Harry

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Most Read