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Minister, war vet awarded France’s top honour

By Nancy Fornasiero

Although he entered Glen Abbey United pushing a walker and carefully escorted by family members, 92-year-old Rev. Ted Kersey stood proudly, unassisted, during the playing of O Canada and La Marseillaise — a fitting opening to an event at the Oakville, Ont., church that celebrated not only the contributions of this Second World War veteran, but also the long-standing friendship between Canada and France.

To acknowledge his role in the liberation of France from the Nazis, Kersey was awarded the rank of Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest national order. The retired United Church minister is among several hundred Canadians honoured through a campaign launched by the French government to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy.

Retired minister and war vet Ted Kersey displays the medal given to him for his involvement in France’s liberation. Courtesy of the Oakville Beaver
Retired minister and war vet Ted Kersey displays the medal given to him for his involvement in France’s liberation. Courtesy of the Oakville Beaver

Kersey served as a dispatch rider with the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corp. He came ashore at Juno Beach on July 10, 1944, and fought during the Battle of Caen and later during the clearing of the Falaise Pocket, a decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy. Following that action, his unit moved across northern France, through Belgium and into Holland.

He returned to his family in the village of Hampton, Ont., in 1946 and was ordained in 1952. Kersey ministered at various Ontario churches and also served as executive secretary of Hamilton Conference in the late 1970s.

Several dignitaries at the January ceremony offered stirring words, but it was Kersey himself who stole the spotlight.

“How do I reply to all this?” he began. “I’m just little ol’ Ted Kersey; I feel as if they’ve all been talking about somebody else.” But reply he did: confidently and off the cuff, his decades of experience at the pulpit in evidence. His wartime recollections elicited both laughter and tears from those gathered to celebrate.

“I accept this medal on behalf of my comrades, some of whom are still over there and some buried here,” Kersey said solemnly. “I wear this with a deep sense of humility and a great deal of pride toward veterans everywhere.”

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