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Remembrance Day: Richmond student dives deep into First World War history

November 11 is a day for active exercise of remembrance, according to KPU instructor
Jordan Fenske White
Jordan Fenske White (left) with his dad Joseph Fenske White.

“I thought it would be a good idea to put a story to a name that I always saw on the cenotaph.”

Richmond resident Jordan Fenske White would always stare at the names etched in the cenotaph when Nov. 11 came around.

This year, he hopes to shed light on a particular local First World War veteran ahead of Remembrance Day.

Fenske White, who is a history major at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), came across the name Walter Steeves, a veteran who grew up in Steveston.

“I thought why don’t I find out about someone who lived in the same area as me, grew up in the same places (100 years ago.)”

For a class project, Fenske White looked through documents, diaries and letters to learn about the war, his veteran of choice, and what the First World War was really like.

“Because there were a lot of Canadian conflicts that happened across the seas, we didn’t have that at-home connection as much. However, having a name and a story of someone near you really brings the whole narrative home and you realize that the war truly affected people in our country.”

He and his classmates were tasked with putting together individual videos highlighting their veterans’ stories and photos during the First World War, which were posted online.

Fenske White told the Richmond News his interest in history, specifically military history, mainly came from his “strong military family background” of grandfathers, aunts, uncles and his dad.

This and his current history course made him understand the need to re-evaluate Canada’s history especially in the First World War, he added.

“The First World War … was all about going to war and peace-keeping wasn’t even on the minds of people,” he explained.

Fenske White’s history instructor, Chris Hyland, said the purpose of the class assignment is to create a “deep connection between the past and present” and allow students to participate in “an active exercise of remembrance.”

“It’s one thing to sit there and watch the news coverage of the Remembrance Day ceremony, and that’s all well and good, but it’s another thing to actively seek out the veterans of the past and get to know them a little more intimately,” said Hyland.