The Collingwood Lawn Bowling Club is honouring veterans this weekend as it has done for nearly 20 years.
The annual Veteran’s Day tournament began with Chic Simonato, a member of the club and one of Collingwood’s Second World War veterans.
Simonato never forgot the soldiers he fought alongside in Europe during the Second World War, and he made sure others wouldn’t forget either.
Simonato was born and raised in Collingwood. During the war, he was Sgt. Simonato, a Vickers machine gunner in the Canadian army. He was stationed in Europe from 1942 to the end of the war in 1945, save for three weeks in England to heal from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Among the many times Simonato narrowly avoided death was during a retreat in France. Simonato’s unit joined Third Division at Caripquet Airport in Caen two weeks after the D-Day attacks at Normandy. Simonato’s unit was assigned to support Le Régiment de Maisonneuve at St. Andre, but eventually the retreat was called as casualties piled up. It was every man for himself. The driver of Simonato’s vehicle got excited and drove up onto a rock so Simonato and his unit had to hide. They found a covered trench nearby and took cover. Five minutes later the German’s rolled in.
Simonato wrote in his account of the story that he listened to the Germans talking above his head as he waited for a chance to escape. The Germans left in the morning and Simonato’s crew left undetected. On his way, Simonato ran into his friend Dusty Morrow.
“I was very glad to see im and to this day, Dusty and I are good friends,” wrote Simonato.
The Sergeant returned home to Collingwood where he spent a time as a salesman for Electrolux before getting a job at the Collingwood Shipyards, where he eventually became the chief electrical engineer.
He joined the Collingwood Lawn Bowling club almost as soon as it started up, and poured his heart and soul into the Honour Walls that stand at the Collingwood Museum. Simonato passed away in 2010.
Now his daughter Sandra Smith has taken up his cause and continues to organize the annual Veterans Day tournament at the Lawn Bowling Club. She loves Collingwood like her father did and also has a deep desire to see veterans honoured and remembered for their work.
“I just think our veterans kind of get lost by the wayside because there’s not a world war that puts them at front of mind anymore,” said Smith. “I think they don’t get their due respect. We need to realize they are putting their lives on the line as soon as they leave the country, and even in the country.”
She said her dad worked hard during his life to make sure veterans - especially those from his beloved Collingwood - were honoured and remembered.
“He wanted to reinforce how important they were to our lives,” said Smith.
Though the annual lawn bowling tournament sees fewer Second World War veterans these days than it did at the outset, the club extends invitations to both military bases in Meaford and Base Borden for the event.
This year’s tournament takes place on Saturday, July 7 with registration from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The event is open to the public and the tournament fee is $15 per person plus $5 for a luncheon. There is no cost for military personnel.
At 9:45 there will be a ceremony with the Collingwood Town Crier, Mayor Sandra Cooper and president of the Collingwood Legion. Following that, the tournament participants will parade around the greens led by a piper.
Games start at 10 a.m. with two games in the morning and one in the afternoon.