Legion volunteer a familiar face in South Surrey’s Ocean Park neighbourhood

George Grasdal has been selling poppies for the Legion for the past 13 years

South Surrey resident George Grasdal is quick to offer help to people who drop a coin or bill into his poppy drive donation box.

Grasdal, who has spent the past 13 years selling poppies for Royal Canadian Legion’s Crescent Beach Branch 240, has mastered the trick of keeping a poppy in place.

While speaking to Peace Arch News Tuesday in front of the Ocean Park BC Liquor Store – his designated spot every year – Grasdal said the trick is to thread the needle through the poppy and back into the lapel.

He demonstrated the technique on a customer, and then again on a PAN reporter.

When asked why the 74-year-old volunteers at least eight hours of the day, every day from the last Friday of October to Nov. 11, Grasdal reached for the pocket of his blazer and pulled out a reproduction of a circa 1944 photo of his parents.

George and Jean Grasdal both served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War.

Jean contributed to the war effort by doing clerical work near Ottawa and George was sent overseas. George, a trained tail-gunner, caught a severe flu and was reassigned to be an aircraft electrician.

“Most of the guys he trained with the first time, as tail-gunners, never came back,” Grasdal said. “That’s what the enemy fighters went for first, was the tail-gunners, and then the rest of the aircraft was pretty well wide open.”

Every year, Grasdal places a poppy on his mother’s and father’s graves.

“It’s important to remember them.”

SEE ALSO: Veteran to row for PTSD support

EDITORIAL: Honour Surrey’s veterans, but remember your duty, too

Grasdal also had an uncle who was one of the D-Day Dodgers. The D-Day Dodgers were Allied servicemen who fought in Italy during the Second World War.

“He had three tanks shot out from under him,” Grasdal recalled of his uncle. “I remember (seeing) the shrapnel and pockmarks on his back when I was just a little guy.”

Neither his father nor his uncle talked much about their experience, he added.

However, hearing stories from veterans, and family members of veterans, has become a common part of Grasdal’s Remembrance Day volunteer work.

“I had one gentleman come up last year, and he said he picks a different location every year. He said he had relatives in both World War I and World War II. He put a $100 bill in the box, but it’s all by donation,” Grasdal said.

Grasdal says he keeps track of the familiar faces, but as the years go by, he’s receiving fewer and fewer visits from his regulars.

“There used to be a lot of ladies, veterans, that would come into the hair salon year-after-year. The last two or three years, they’re all gone. They would have been up in their late 80s and 90s.”

Prior to his 13-year stint, Grasdal said he volunteered sporadically until he retired from a 37-year career as a mail carrier.

He concluded that his time spent delivering mail trained him to be able to spend eight hours on his feet, usually from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

VIDEO: Surrey veteran recalls fight to have Remembrance Day recognized

He prefers to do the work without a chair to rest on, he said.

“If I sat down, I wouldn’t want to get back up again.”

•••

Remembrance Day ceremonies scheduled to take place on the Semiahmoo Peninsula include one at Crescent Beach Legion (2643 128 St) starting at 10:30 a.m.; and one at White Rock City Hall, organized by the White Rock Legion.

The White Rock parade is to start at 10:30 a.m. from Johnston Road at Roper Avenue. Service will include a flyover at 11 a.m. at the city hall cenotaph (15322 Buena Vista Ave.).

 

George Grasdal fastens a poppy to Lynn Pollard’s jacket in front of the Ocean Park BC Liquor Store Tuesday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)

George Grasdal shows a photograph of his mother and father. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Just Posted

PHOTOS: White Rock marks Remembrance Day

Hundreds of people gathered Monday morning to give thanks to veterans

VIDEO: One injured in north Surrey shooting Sunday

Male victim taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries

Christmas Card Collective promises ‘special delivery’

Third annual event aims to see 10,000 holiday greetings delivered to homeless shelters

Surrey veteran talks about the emotional side of war

Reginald Wise served in the Royal Marines in WWII

White Rock RCMP member recognized by province for safety efforts

Chantal Sears among five B.C. residents honoured during Crime Prevention Week

VIDEO: Hong Kong police shoot protester, man set on fire

It was the second protester shot since the demonstrations began in early June

Sportsnet fires Don Cherry after negative comments about immigrants

Don Cherry had said immigrants don’t wear poppies like other Canadians do

Trudeau’s new cabinet: Gender parity because it’s 2019? Or due to competence?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon appoint his new cabinet

Coquihalla drivers urged to be careful amid freezing rain alert

Special weather statement in effect for highways between Hope, Merritt, Kamloops and Kelowna

Canada among three G20 countries least likely to hit emissions targets

It says Canada, South Korea and Australia are the farthest off

Conservatives’ Scheer wants Trudeau to open Parliament Nov. 25

That’s five days after Justin Trudeau is scheduled to swear in a new cabinet

14 SeaBus cancellations, free rides for veterans from TransLink on Remembrance Day

Free rides also available for current Armed Forces members, first responders

Last remaining Centurion tank from the Korean War makes its journey ‘home’ to B.C.

Tank arrives in B.C. the day before Remembrance Day after a more than 4,500-kilometre transfer

‘Your vehicle burns a lot of fuel:’ Victoria drivers wake up to angry notes

‘This handbill was left on your vehicle because your vehicle burns a lot of fuel,’ notes read

Most Read

l -->