REMEMBRANCE - St. Paul’s Hillsdown Anglican Church east of Red Deer. Florence Kirkwood is buried in the cemetery but her grave marker also includes mention of her beloved husband David who was killed in action in northern France during the Second World War. David is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery near Calais

The tragic story of David and Florence Kirkwood

Another Valentine’s Day is approaching.

It is a time to reflect on true love and life-long commitments. However, although there are many wonderful stories associated with such bonds, sometimes tragedy, through such things as accident, illness, or war, intervene and create sad endings to heart-warming stories.

One such case involves David and Florence Choveaux Kirkwood of the Hillsdown district, east of Red Deer.

Florence was the oldest of three children born to Mabel (Fiske) and Frank Choveaux. She was born on Aug. 18th, 1909. Her mother was a member of the pioneer Fiske family, one of the earliest to homestead in Hillsdown.

David Kirkwood was born on Feb. 17th, 1906 in Beith, Ayrshire, Scotland, the eldest and only son of David and Agnes Kirkwood.

Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Lochaber, Quebec to farm. Tragically, David’s father died the day after Christmas, 1908, leaving his mother with two small children (David and his sister, Mary) to raise.

Agnes later married Samuel Biehler and they moved to Ancaster, Ontario. She had five more children – three sons and two daughters.

David was a bright young man who did well in school. However, he had to drop out when he turned 15 in order to get a job to help support the family. He continued to work on farms in and around Ancaster until 1927.

He then moved to northern Ontario and western Canada to look for new opportunities. He eventually got a job working with diamond drilling crews, exploring for natural gas, primarily in southern Alberta.

David worked with Harry Keats, from the Hillsdown/Pine Lake area and subsequently met Florence Choveaux. The two fell deeply in love.

They were married on June 7th, 1932 at the beautiful little St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Hillsdown.

David and Florence then took up farming on the western edge of Hillsdown. The land was not great. Because of the topography, the farm was somewhat isolated from the rest of the district. Moreover, the harsh Depression years made it even more challenging to make a living.

In 1938, David secured a good new job with the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company as a diamond drill foreman in a hard rock mine in Yellowknife. Not wishing to be separated from her husband, Florence moved north to join him.

After the Second World War broke out, David wanted to enlist and serve his country. Consequently, in 1942, he and Florence moved back to Hillsdown so Florence would be near family.

David then went to Edmonton. The recruiting officer was very impressed by him. The report stated that David was, “Very reliable and capable” and that his stability was, “Well above average.” The officer added that, “He will make a mighty fine soldier.”

David trained with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps as a cook and mechanic, but ended up in the Calgary Highlanders.

While David went into the front lines of northern France after the D-Day invasion, Florence went to Ontario to stay with her mother-in-law for a while. She suddenly fell ill, had a major operation at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, but did not survive. She passed away on July 11th, 1944.

Florence’s body was sent back to Hillsdown so that she could be buried in the St. Paul’s churchyard.

Meanwhile, heartbroken, David lost all interest in what might happen to himself.

He was killed on the battlefield on Sept. 10th, 1944. He was initially buried at Bourbourg, France, but was later reinterred in the Calais Canadian War Cemetery near St. Inglevert, France.

Although Florence and David remained physically separated, a special headstone was put on Florence’s grave with both their names inscribed on it.