Remembering Red Deerian (Harold) Waldo Huestis

From March 26th to April 12th, 2015, a group of students from Ecole Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School made an exchange visit to Ecole Jeanne D’arc in Mulhouse, France. This partnership exchange program has been in place since 1993.

While in France, the L.T.C.H.S. students traveled to the Boulogne Cemetery in Northern France. While there, they conducted a special graveside memorial service for Harold Waldo Huestis. Waldo Huestis was a former student of the Red Deer High School who had died of wounds suffered in battle during the First World War.

(Harold) Waldo Huestis was born on Jan. 4th, 1897 in St. George’s, Bermuda, the son of Rev. Charles H. Huestis and Jessie Ackman Huestis.

His parents moved to Alberta in 1901 where his father became the minister at McDougall Methodist Church in Edmonton.

Rev. Huestis also taught philosophy at Alberta College.

In 1907, Rev. Huestis took charge of the Methodist Church in Red Deer. During his tenure, the beautiful old Leonard Gaetz Memorial Methodist Church (later Gaetz Memorial United Church) was constructed on the northeast corner of Ross Street and 48 Avenue.

In 1911, Mr. and Mrs. Huestis built a large new home on the corner of 47 Avenue and 52 Street, where they raised their three sons and one daughter.

Waldo took his high school at the old Red Deer High School, a block west of the family home. He was an exceptional student.

He was particularly noted for his writing ability and poetry. He was also very active in the local Boy Scouts and served as a patrol leader.

After graduation, Waldo attended Normal School (teacher’s college) in Edmonton.

He later got his first teaching job at the Norma School, just east of Sylvan Lake and then at the Sylvan Dell School in the village of Sylvan Lake,

In March 1916, he enlisted with the 196th University Battalion in Edmonton. Once he was overseas, he was transferred into the 46th South Saskatchewan Battalion.

The transfer had been necessitated by the ongoing horrific casualties incurred by the South Saskatchewan Battalion and the steady need for reinforcements.

The 46 Battalion became known as ‘The Suicide Battalion’ as the unit had 1,433 killed and 3,844 wounded in 27 months, a casualty rate of 91.5 %.

Waldo was part of the Canadian assault troops during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

However, on March 27, 1917, during the lead up to the Canadian attack on the Ridge, Waldo was severely wounded by shrapnel near the village of Angres, on the southwestern outskirts of the City of Lens.

The wounds were to his right shoulder and leg. He was sent to the No. 3 Canadian Hospital at Boulogne, France, where his leg was amputated. His prognosis was initially described as, “Grave, but not hopeless.”

His brother Ralph, a Lieutenant Adjutant with the Canadian Army Services Corps, was able to visit Waldo in hospital.

It was the first time the two brothers saw each other since the start of the War. Regardless of what Ralph witnessed during that visit, he wrote an encouraging letter home to tell his parents that Waldo’s condition was very serious, but that he was sure that ultimately his younger brother would pull through.

However, as was probably inevitable since the time he was wounded, Waldo shortly succumbed to his wounds shortly after Ralph’s visit.

He passed away on April 27, 1917. He is buried in the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery

When Waldo had been home on his last leave, he copied out the following poem:

“A little work, a little play.

To keep us going – and so good day!

A little warmth, a little light.

Of love’s bestowing – and so, good-night!

A little fun, to match the sorrow

Of each day’s growing – and so good-morrow!

A little trust that when we die

We reap our sowing! and so, good-bye!”

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