A WWII veteran from South Brook is finally seeing some major upgrades to his home, thanks to the Royal Canadian Legion.
Alex Hewlett served in Scotland with the Newfoundland Forestry Unit during the Second World War, from 1939 until the end of the war in 1945. His service to the country included providing aid and support to the war efforts by cutting timber to build bridges and structures for those on the front lines.
© Rudy Norman
"I was there for six years, and they wouldn't able to kill me in all that time," says Hewlett with a laugh. The 94-year-old still has his sense of humour and recalls stories of his life with fond memories and pride.
For Hewlett and his wife, Ruby, though, life has seen its challenges. The couple, who have been married for nearly 70 years, enjoy the independence they have of still living in their old home in South Brook, which also used to double as a store before they retired.
"I don't want to go into a home somewhere. I likes it here, and I likes living in my own house," Hewlett told The Norwester.
However, the aged structure the couple call home has seen better days. The floor in the kitchen and bathroom part of the house had warped and deformed with age, to the point where it was unsafe to use any longer.
"The floor was on a slant, and basically had a peak in the middle," says John Braye. He's President of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 40 in Springdale.
Braye says Hewlett and his family have been dealing with the condition of their floor for quite some time. Their stove was elevated on one side, he says, and anything placed on top of it would slide because of the condition of the floor underneath.
Hewlett's family reached out to a local contractor and asked how much it would cost to repair the house. However, they were told it wasn't an easy task.
"One contractor told us it would be about $12,000, but that they wouldn't think about attempting it," said Hewlett's daughter, Violet Burton. "We realized that even if we did end up finding someone who could do it, we weren't going to be able to afford to pay for it, in any case."
It was then that Hewlett and his family reached out to Veteran's Affairs. However, they were turned down for assistance, and given little explanation why.
"They just said not at this time," she said.
It was then the family tried to look for help in other ways - such as the Royal Canadian Legion.
"I wrote the legion and told them the situation, but I never ever heard anything back," she said.
John Braye says when he took over as Legion President in January, he was handed a pile of papers that he decided to gradually work his way through.
"The person who would have usually dealt with a request like this is off," explained Braye. "So it took me a while to get to the letter, but once I found it, I knew I had to try and do something."
The Hewletts said they were surprised one day when they received a knock on the door. It was Braye and his wife, there to examine the condition of their kitchen.
"I took one look, and I knew right away that they needed to get it fixed," he said.
Braye set out to find a better quote for the work, hoping he would find a contractor who believed in the story enough to give them a break. He found it in Dennis Vincent in Pilley's Island.
Given the amount of work needed, though, the budget was still out of reach for the local legion.
"There was a lot of work that needed to be done, and our resources are limited," he said. "I went to the membership and we agreed to help as much as we could, but for the rest we had to get more help."
Braye made application to the Provincial Command of the Legion, in hopes that they would give the remainder needed.
"Mr. Hewlett has been a faithful member of the legion for over 40 years, so it seemed like a no-brainer," he said.
Provincial Command agreed, and Braye says he joyfully made the call to the contractor to give them the go-ahead.
Now, Hewlett and his family can rest easy that their house will be safe and stable once again.
"We're so thankful to John and the Legion for their help," said Burton. "I don't know what they would have done without them."
Braye said he feels the Legion and, in fact, all Canadians, have a duty and responsibility to look after the veterans who sacrificed so much for their country.
While Hewlett didn't see combat during his time overseas, he said he was close.
"They trained us to fight, and the day before we were supposed to go to battle, we got the word the war was over," he said. "I guess they got scared when they heard I was coming."