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A century of service: Jasper Legion celebrates 100th anniversary

To celebrate the 100th anniversary, the Legion is holding a Gala/Mess Dinner on November 2

Fuchsia Dragon | publisher@fitzhugh.ca

Jasper’s branch of the Royal Canadian Legion has been at the heart of the community for 100 years.

The Legion supports veterans and their families, and is a welcoming hub for all with its family-friendly pub, community events and concerts.

Through the Stand Easy lounge, restaurant, hall rentals, and other fundraising activities, the branch raises funds for veterans, Remembrance activities, and donations to the community.

And the pub brings in the punters. There are 13 local beers on tap, the branch screens sports games, has a pool table and darts board, and hosts regular and guest musicians. 

Branch president Paul Godbout said: “What I really enjoy about our Legion is we show people what it’s like. Most are closed to members only but we open to the public and show what it’s like, what we do and provide.”

Godbout said when he visits other branches the Stand Easy really stands out.

“Over the last five years we have made it what it is,” he said.

“I find it amazing that people say, ‘Where should we go?” and people say the Legion.

“I go to meetings from the district and people are saying ‘We have to find a way to bring young people in,’ and I say, ‘Come to Jasper.’

“I am extremely proud of our branch.”

The Jasper branch has a veterans adventure program, designed to help veterans and their families to access equipment and opportunities within the park like kayaking, canoeing, camping, horseback riding, and boat and bike rentals.

And the Legion is fundraising to build housing for veterans inside its current building.

“We are here to support veterans in town, RCMP or armed forces, and that is really what our purpose is, to support them,” said Godbout.

The first Legion was built in Jasper from scrap wood by Vincent Woodcock and Alex Bonner. It was across the road from where the building stands now, on the corner of Geikie Street and Pyramid Avenue.

It was leased from 1922 for $1 per year.

In 1930, the building was extended so a beer room, billiards table and regular club features could be held on the ground floor. 

And in 1935, the society was officially transferred from a Great War Veterans institution to Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service Legion Jasper Branch number 31.

The branch was strong.

From curling teams to Christmas parties, the Legion was a meeting point and support network for veterans in Jasper. 

And in 1949, American star Bing Crosby was a special guest and presided over a sod-turning ceremony.

In 1961, the Legion started looking for a new home and correspondence started going back and forth between the branch and Parks Canada.

It took many years, but in 1970 the lot across the street was leased to the Legion in 1970. 

Leon Gieselman, president of the Jasper branch, burned the mortgage document at a ceremony held at Legion Hall in May 1975.

Support for the Legion in Jasper has stayed strong, as has the branch’s community involvement.

Today, the Legion continues to improve the lives of veterans, including serving Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP members and their families.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary, the Legion is holding a Gala/Mess Dinner on November 2, starting at 5 p.m.

At the formal dinner there will be guest speakers from the Communities for Veterans Foundation and Military Minds Canada, and performances by the Rocky Mountain Rangers, Julian Austin and the Royal Canadian Artillery Band.

It is a black tie event and a fundraiser for the Jasper Veterans Housing Project.

Tickets cost $150 and are available from ticketweb.ca.

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