By Miriam Ostermann, Associate Editor
The Strathmore Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 10 bid farewell to their last known D-Day veteran earlier this week, where the timing of his passing was suitable with Remembrance Day – a day the 94-year-old George Freeman cherished.
George Freeman – “Mr. Strathmore” and “Mr. DU” – passed away on Nov. 6.
The youngest of six children, Freeman joined the army at the age of 18, and was discharged on Sept. 30, 1947. He was in the first wave on D-Day – the Battle of Normandy – and was involved in action for 11 months until the war ended in 1945.
Upon his return to Canada, he settled back in Strathmore, where he was born, to raise his family, and carried out the rest of his influential life.
However, while Freeman poured his heart and soul into the community and was quickly deemed Mr. Strathmore by family and community members, his dedication to Remembrance Day and the legion never wavered.
“He went around to all the schools, him and John Scheer, and talked to the kids about what it meant,” said Jenny Schumann, president of the Strathmore Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 10, who knew Freeman for over 30 years.
“Almost all students remember George Freeman coming to their school and promoting the poster and poem essay contest. He was witty, he loved to tease, and he loved his family.”
The war veteran travelled back to Normandy beaches in 1969, and every five years thereafter until he was no longer able to. Then, two years ago, Sergeant George Freeman received the highest honour bestowed upon anyone in France: the Order of the Legion of Honour to France, on April 15.
The father of two and grandfather to three had a passion for Strathmore. He dedicated 35 years to Ducks Unlimited, earning him the Mr. DU moniker, got involved in schools and community events, served as the fire chief of Strathmore for 13 years, and even had the East Boundary Road renamed in his honour, in 2010, to George Freeman Trail.
“He was everything Strathmore, he was Mr. Strathmore; it’s far easier to say what he didn’t do than what he did do,” said Wally Freeman, George’s nephew, who joked that the only thing his uncle didn’t do was hold public office.
“He was always there for anybody and everybody. He was recognized by multiple organizations, both nationally and provincially, and you could count among his friends everybody from the president of Shell Oil (Company) down to the guy who drove the Cat at the Ducks Unlimited projects. He was just that kind of guy.
“He was always a tremendous supporter of the legion and he took the legion school program to literally thousands of kids here in Strathmore plus to Calgary. For a guy who never went anywhere … he made an enormous impact.”
Although Freeman will now be among those remembered on Nov. 11, the local legion members said they will miss his compassion and dedication year-round. But most importantly they will miss the man – George Freeman.
“He cared, and we don’t seem to have anyone nowadays who puts the time and effort in that George and John (Scheer) did,” said Schumann.
“He was a teaching, compassionate man who always shared his knowledge, and it didn’t matter what it was, he always had time for everybody. If everybody had a bit of George in them, I think it’d be a happier place.”