HALIFAX STANFIELD AIRPORT: Riley Stewart will remember her trip to Vimy for the rest of her life.
The Stewiacke native, one of the students from South Colchester Academy (SCA) in Brookfield to have taken a week-long trip to Europe that included taking in the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge, had the chance to do something the rest of her family hasn’t—visit the grave-site of her great-great uncle, Harry Milton Stewart, at the Tilloy Cambrai cemetery. Stewart was from the Westville area and died on Oct. 9, 1918, nearing the last three months of the war, outside Cambrai.
“I thought it was a really good experience because I was the first in my family to do it,” said Riley moments after clearing through customs along with the rest of the SCA group and hugging her awaiting parents. “It was a really special moment for me.”
Getting to visit the grave-site was something that was first mentioned three years ago by her dad Tom, during a parents meeting with teacher Gary Renouf. Tom had asked if Riley would be able to get there.
At the time Renouf said he would do his best, something he reiterated when asked shortly before the trip. Where the grave-site was located was a location not on the route the group was taking, and in an area Renouf was not familiar with. It also has narrow roads, so it wasn’t quite built for a tour bus but in the end they managed to do it.
“I have always made it a point that if I can do it I will,” he said. “Luckily I have travelled a fair amount over there. It was at a cemetery and an area I wasn’t familiar with.
“We have a fantastic tour guide (David Moore) from Explorica (Stephanie Crosbie) that we work with and we found it.”
When Renouf got up and came to Riley on the bus and said to her “okay, let’s go Riley” she smiled ear-to-ear.
“I was really excited,” she recalled.
She did a stencil drawing of the grave so she could bring it home for her dad.
“It’s breathtaking kind of,” she said.
Renouf, who calls Fall River home, said it meant the world to him to be able to make that moment become reality for Riley.
“When I heard her story on her great great uncle, and then her family talking to me about him,” he said. “He died nearly 100 years ago and no one has ever got there, so to do that for her and her family, gosh as a teacher it doesn’t get any better than that. I’m very happy for her.”
Riley said while they got to visit many places during the trip and take part in the Vimy 100 ceremony, the visit to grave-site was the highlight of the trip for her.
“I’m really thankful to Mr. Renouf for making this possible for me,” she said.