A Vancouver Island family has been reunited with a piece of their history, after Port Hardy man William Reeve delivered to them a military service medal awarded to a family member killed in active duty.
Private Alexander Edwin Shaw was born in Qualicum Beach, and died in the Second World War during the first half of the battle of Normandy.
Reeve had been on a mission to reunite the family with the Silver Cross medal, a medal awarded to the next of kin of the military member who died in active service.
“I was on the hunt for somebody in the family who really cared,” said Reeve.
When he connected with Cilka LaTrace, he knew he’d found the right person.
Standing in front of St. Anne’s church in Parksville on Remembrance Day, Reeve handed the Silver Cross over to LaTrace, Alex’s niece, in front of 11 other members of the Shaw family.
It was an emotional moment. Family members crowded around to take a look at the delicate piece of history now reunited with its rightful owners. LaTrace said the moment was a significant one for the family.
“It’s incredible. It’s very moving!” said LaTrace.
LaTrace and her siblings already had a collection of military service medals awarded to Alex, which had been passed down to her father, Peter James Shaw. They didn’t know the Silver Cross existed until a phone call came from Reeve out of the blue.
“Getting the phone call and talking to William a week ago was just, I think we sat at the table for, I don’t know, fifteen minutes my husband and I, just in awe of this whole happening, how this had occurred,” said LaTrace.
Though the Shaw family is now spread throughout mid- and north- Vancouver Island, they have deep roots in Qualicum Beach.
The area of Shaw Hill in Qualicum Beach is named after their family.
“They lived at the bottom of Shaw Hill. And the house at the bottom of Shaw Hill was a river rock house, and it was actually a coach house for people travelling up island. It was a very central spot for here on Vancouver Island, and very busy from what we’re told,” said LaTrace.
Alex’s mother, Mahala Shaw, was the local post-mistress, and drove the school bus, which doubled as a milk truck.
The medal was found in a suitcase purchased from the Arrowsmith Lodge by Reeve’s friend, Heather Jones’s husband.
Jones didn’t discover the medal until several years and moves later. She passed it on to Reeve, who spends much of his time researching family trees.
“I think it’s – we weren’t aware of the existence of this,” said Paul Shaw, LaTrace’s brother.
“And to have it all the sudden come out of the blue it’s…”
“Wonderful,” said LaTrace.
“Overwhelming. It really is. And totally unexpected. It’s a very pleasant surprise, that’s for sure,” said Paul Shaw.
The medals will be passed in their entirety to Peter Shaw, LaTrace’s brother, and will be displayed formally in his home, to carry on throughout his family.