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Sherwood Park woman's journey to WWII cemetery brings closure to her family
Linda Hoang, CTV Edmonton
Published Saturday, November 10, 2012 6:13PM MST
Last Updated Saturday, November 10, 2012 6:33PM MST
It will be a particularly special Remembrance Day for a Sherwood Park woman, who recently travelled overseas to visit her great uncle's grave site to help bring closure to her family.
Bev Embury’s great uncle Merle Davis was killed during World War II.
Embury recently travelled to the small Italian town of Ortona, to visit Merle’s grave site, with her husband and some friends.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do for my dad,” Embury said.
“There was no family representative that has ever been there so we wanted to find the grave.”
Embury’s great uncle’s grave is located at the Ortona War Cemetery.
She said the feeling that overtook the group was overwhelming when they arrived at the cemetery.
“It was just an unbelievable feeling. I just can’t explain to you the feeling that we all had,” Embury said.
“I don’t think any one of us expected to have that feeling at the cemetery.”
Merle, who grew up in Edmonton, was one of more than 1,300 Canadians killed during the famous Battle of Ortona.
He was just 23-years-old and a young father.
Embury has a picture taken of Merle with his son Rhett, on what was the one and only time they saw one another.
“He (Merle) died about three days before his (Rhett’s) first birthday,” Embury said.
Rhett says although he never knew his father, he heard many stories growing up.
“My father gave me my freedom, gave a lot of people freedom, not just him, but all of them who fought in that war and any war,” said Rhett Davis.
Embury placed two Canadian flags at Merle’s headstone during her visit, one for Rhett and the other for the Davis family.
She also clipped a tiny flower from Merle’s grave to press and send to Rhett.
“I wanted Rhett to have something tangible of his grave site just to have so that might bring him closer to where his dad was and have closure for him,” Embury said.
Embury said her visit was also meant to bring closure for the rest of her family.
“We all pay our respects here every year on November 11 as we do with everyone else, but that closure I don’t think was there for the family and so I thought this was time somebody did that,” she said.
Embury said Rhett was thrilled when she sent him the flower and pictures of Merle’s grave site.
“I think he was taken aback that I did this for him, I did this for the family. I am very happy that my husband and my friends took the time for us to do this because it meant the world to us,” Embury said.
“I know that this was just something that was beyond, beyond for him. I think he was thrilled.”
Until Embury sent the flower and pictures of the grave site, Rhett had only one photograph of his father, featuring a cross and Merle’s helmet.
The photograph had inspired Rhett, a musician, to write a song for Merle, called A Helmet and a Cross, that he wasn’t able to finish writing until after Embury sent him photos of his dad’s gravesite.
“It was a sad picture but there was something about it that I couldn’t bring myself to write a song about until Bev Embury went to Italy and found my father’s grave,” Rhett said.
“Once I had that picture of the grave I was able to finish the song almost immediately.”
The completed song, Rhett says, helped bring him closure and he hopes helps other families who have experienced loss from war.
“The song kind of has a universal theme for any soldiers’ families and every time Remembrance Day or Veterans Day comes up, it’s a special time for people to remember what all these women and men did for us and that’s really the bottom line,” Rhett said.
With files from Amanda Anderson