Letters from the past

Students read the wartime writings of Danforth's alumni

Danforth CI students sat rapt in silence on Nov. 11 as classmate Emilee De Sommer-Dennis read aloud from a letter written by WWII soldier Lloyd Peters.

The letter, which spoke of first impressions of England, and of fear, wasn’t written by just anyone — Peters was one of their own, a Danforth CI student sent overseas to defend freedom as the world turned upside down.

Honouring those who walked the hallways before them, students read from several letters and poems written by Danforth students who came of age during wartime.

The students focus on Canada’s World War II effort are made especially visceral by the fact that the Greenwood Avenue school has a proud history itself.

They sent more staff and students overseas than any other school in the Commonwealth — 2,235.

To honour this significant contribution, the school established the War Memorial Library on its third floor.

It is fitted with memorial stained-glass windows and several plaques bearing the names of those who were lost, injured or decorated in battle.

Perhaps the most inspirational item in the library is the collection of correspondences from its students and staff serving overseas.
And the importance of keeping those mementos isn’t lost on the student body.

“It shows that students from here really did care about fighting for our freedom,” said De Sommer-Dennis. “It’s especially important now because of what’s going on in Afghanistan.”

Student Sam Beaudoin says he takes pride in his school’s history.

Beaudoin read a letter from Mel Lounds, another classmate from the past. Lounds, who wrote the letter in 1944, mentions by name the various classmates from Danforth that he was surrounded by at his training camp in England.

Roisin Thompson read a poem called “A Veteran’s Lament,” also written by a former Danforth student while serving abroad.

The students are in teacher Joanne Panagiotakakos’s Grade 10 Canadian History class.

“We have leather-bound books with newspaper clippings and photographs of soldiers from Danforth,” Panagiotakakos said.

In the afternoon after the assembly, her students went to the library to study these materials as well as to compose postcards of thanks to send to soldiers currently serving.

The program is part of Postcards for Peace, an initiative created by Veterans Canada, and something that Panagiotakakos has embraced in her classroom.

“It gives kids an opportunity to thank soldiers who are serving currently around the world and it makes this history current,” she said.

After an impassioned assembly, which also featured music, dance, and a speech by Major Ken Rodzinyak, of the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre in Trenton, students at Danforth left the auditorium obviously stirred.

No doubt history is very much alive at Danforth.

About this article:

By: Christopher Reynolds
Posted: Nov 19 2009 12:09 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto