Mildred Meisner remembers the parting words of her 17-year-old brother Bernard before he enlisted as a gunner in the Royal Canadian Artillery in December, 1940.
“The last words he said were, ‘Mother, I’m coming home,’” she recalled. But he never did come back. On June 25, 1942 Bernard, who grew up in Bridgewater, was killed in an explosion in a coastal defence station at Lewisporte, Newfoundland.
Meisner was only 10 at the time, and didn’t grasp the magnitude of the news that came by telegraph.
“But I know my mother took it real, real hard,” she said.
Over the years, Meisner has campaigned in her own way to ensure her brother’s memory, and those of others who sacrificed their lives in World War II, are kept alive. Most recently, she’s taken to hooking rugs with a ‘Lest We Forget’ motif.
The explosion that killed her brother was thought to be caused when a weapon was discharged accidentally in the direction of stored construction dynamite. Three other men were said to have perished in the accident.
Meisner’s other brother, Harry, went to fight for Canada at the same time, but was spared the tragic ending. The two brothers, who had 16 other siblings, enlisted together and pretended to be twins hoping to increase the likelihood of their being posted together. But Harry was posted elsewhere in Newfoundland, which was considered overseas at the time since Newfoundland wasn’t part of Canada. He later returned to Bridgewater unharmed.
In June 1954, another brother, Donald, enlisted in the army and went on to become a peacekeeper based in Germany until 1958.
Meisner obtained her brothers’ military service information from Library and Archives Canada. To recognize their commitment she’s spent years volunteering with the West Nova Reunion and was a member of the Bridgewater Legion.
And she’s on her second hooked rug with the words ‘Lest We Forget.’
Meisner sold the first rug at the South Shore Exhibition, and recently completed another, which is for her niece in Dartmouth. “And I have three more to make,” said Meisner. One is for her son, and two for her nephews out west.
The ‘Lest We Forget’ design, she says, is “just something that came to me.”