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Honouring a Hometown Hero on the Anniversary of a Military Monument
Representatives from the Royal Canadian Legion and RCMP as well as serving military from Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry stationed at CFB Shilo were on hand to observe the 100th anniversary of and rededicate the cenotaph at Neepawa's County Courthouse. In the years following the first world war, and particularly in the first couple of years of the 1920s, military memorials were erected in small towns across the country, including several in the Neepawa area.
This occasion was made all the more significant as it was an opportunity to honour Lt-Gen. (Ret.) Ray Crabbe, a Neepawa native who served at the highest levels of the Canadian military. Plans to honour Crabbe had been in the works since 2020, but Covid restrictions delayed the ceremony to this year.
Crabbe was introduced by his brother Darwin, who recounted several memories of growing up in the Neepawa area as well as enumerating his family’s history in the military, from their father to all five sons born between 1940 and 1946. He identified his brother as someone who was an inspiration not only to his siblings but to young men and women everywhere he went.
Ray Crabbe joined the army in 1963, although it wasn’t his first choice. He’d always wanted to be a radio operator and headed for navy recruitment out of high school, planning to serve in exchange for a university education. He turned out to be mildly colourblind and thus ineligible, but the navy passed his information on to the air force. They also couldn’t sign him because of his colourblindness, so he ended up recruited by the army. A planned four-year term of service turned into a lifelong career, from which he retired in 1998 as a Lieutenant-General having served in five different countries and all across Canada.
He credits his youth in Neepawa for instilling the values he carried with him throughout his career. Accomplishments don’t just happen, he says, they take a lot of work and a lot of people. In a testament to this, several members of his graduating class of 1961 attended the event to reunite and honour him.
Crabbe added one last anecdote from his time serving in Croatia. It turned out that the Croatian commander he was liaisoning with not only knew where Neepawa was, but had been there and had fond memories of the people.
"Here we were in the midst of carnage and all kinds of nasty things going on,” says Crabbe, “and what drew us together was my hometown. I've never forgotten that in the sense of the fact that we live in such a wonderful town, wonderful province, and wonderful country compared to what was going on around us."
Eileen Clarke, MLA for Agassiz, presented a plaque to Crabbe, which will be hung permanently in the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #23 in Neepawa
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