Remembrance Day crusader leaves her mark

Wilma McNeill is presented with the Lieutenant Governor's Community Volunteer Pin at Sarnia’s 100th Birthday Celebration May 7, 2014 (Photo by Melanie Irwin)

A woman who fought to have Remembrance Day designated as an official holiday for 30 years has died.

Sarnia’s Wilma McNeill, 88, passed away suddenly at Bluewater Health on Tuesday, February 4.

Her campaign to have November 11th designated as a legal holiday dates back to 1989.

In February 2018, McNeill told Blackburn News she was overjoyed to see a private member’s bill (Bill C-311) passed by the Senate, a form of symbolic recognition making Remembrance Day a ‘legal holiday’. Up until her death, Wilma McNeill continued to push the province of Ontario to recognize it as a statutory holiday.

She served as a councillor during the amalgamation of the town of Clearwater and Sarnia for one term and was defeated in the 1991 election.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said the flag at city hall will be at half staff on Monday to recognize Wilma’s community service as an elected official.

He said Wilma was the kind of person who could have been on the mayor’s honour list every year.

“She was involved in so many different causes, but the one she’s most noted for was the 30 year campaign to have Remembrance Day returned back to being a holiday,” said Bradley. “She was determined, she had a heart of gold. I always loved anytime we met, her favourite colour was pink, and if you asked her how she was she would say, ‘I’m in the pink,’ and she always was. She was delightful to work with. A very compassionate woman who was determined to leave this place better than it was before she came to the community.”

In May of 2014, McNeill was presented with the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Pin.

The award recognizes Ontario volunteers whose record of service to their community goes above and beyond the norm.

McNeill also volunteered with St. Joseph’s Hospice organizing fundraisers, and raffling off autographed NHL jerseys by her great nephew Dion Phaneuf.

Funeral arrangements for McNeill are being handled by McKenzie Blundy Funeral Home and Cremation Centre on Christina Street.

Visitation will be held on Sunday, February 9 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m, and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Funeral service for Wilma McNeill will be held on Monday at 11 a.m. at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church.