On March 23, a group of students from Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School in Red Deer paid a visit to the Noeux-Les-Mines communal cemetery in northern France. While there, they conducted a ceremony of remembrance for Ivan Myrrle Fisher, a young former student at the Red Deer High School, who was killed in the First World War.
Ivan Fisher was born on Nov. 30, 1894 at Fairhall, Killarney, Manitoba. His mother died of complications from giving birth to him.
Ivan was then adopted by his grandparents, Frederick and Mary Jane Fisher.
In 1904, Ivan’s grandfather and father, both named Fred, bought half section of land (320 acres) in the Poplar Ridge district west of Red Deer along what is now Hwy 11 A.
The hill on the old farm is still known as Fishers’ Hill.
The Fishers were strong believers in education. They helped spearhead the creation of the first Poplar Ridge School. Ivan’s father was the first chair of the Poplar Ridge school board while his grandfather was the first secretary-treasurer.
When Ivan got older, his grandparents moved into Red Deer so that he could attend high school.
After graduation, Ivan was able to secure a job with the Bank of Commerce at Granum, Alberta. He was soon transferred to the branch in Monitor, Alberta.
In October 1915, Ivan decided to enlist with the 51 Battalion. He was soon overseas. His Uncle Arthur had enlisted in December 1914 in the Second Canadian Mounted Rifles and was already serving on the Western Front.
Ivan’s father enlisted in July 1915 in the Medical Corps. Fred worked with the Red Cross in England and then as a stretcher-bearer on the front lines in France. He was wounded when an exploding shell blew him into a dugout. He was reassigned to work in a military hospital in Northern France.
Meanwhile, Ivan was promoted to the position of lance-corporal and served more than 14 months in the trenches without leave. He fought in the famous Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. In August, he was part of the Battle of Hill 70, near Lens, France.
On the morning of Aug. 16, 1917, Ivan crossed the enemy artillery barrage eight times while carrying ammunition for his fellow Canadians. He was then seriously wounded by shellfire.
He died later that day from his wounds.
Ivan was recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery that morning. However, because such honors were rarely given posthumously, the medal was never awarded.
Ivan was buried in the communal cemetery at Noeux-Les-Mines on Aug. 17, 1917. Ivan’s father was able to visit the cemetery not long after Ivan was buried there. He went back, after heavy fighting in the area, in the spring of 1918.
In a poignant letter home to his parents in Red Deer on Aug. 17, 1918, Fred Jr. wrote “I do not like the place poor Ivan is buried in. I will have him removed after the war if I live to get through it myself, as old Fritz [the Germans] has the town and the graveyard disfigured and scarred out of all reason, compared to when I saw it first in 1917.”
Ivan’s dad Fred lived for two years after the end of the War, but then died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage. Ivan’s Uncle Arthur also returned from the War in poor health. He eventually recovered, but remained deaf for the rest of his life as a consequence of being blown into a dugout by shellfire.
Meanwhile, Ivan’s grandmother was devastated by the news of his death. She had a breakdown and totally lost her memory.
After many years of poor health, she passed away in March 1924 and is buried in the Red Deer Cemetery.
Fortunately, because of the visit of the Red Deer students to the little cemetery in northern France and the presentation at the grave by Emily Pasiuk, one of the LTCHS French Immersion students, another generation will remember the story of Ivan Fisher and how he lost his life while courageously serving his country in the First World War.