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by Nancy and Frank Prothero
McKenzie Obituary

Port Stanley World War One Hero To Have Street Named After Him...Maybe

James William McKenzie was killed in the Ypres Salient on the 26th of October, 1917.

His body was never recovered and his name should have appeared on the Menin Gate at Mons but it was spelled William MacKenzie and now the indignity to him and his family is about to be repeated.

The McKenzie family has a long and impressive history in Port Stanley and area. Levi McKenzie was a co-owner and treasurer of the East Side Fish Company. His brother, Sam, born in 1873, was also involved in the fishery. His wife, Mary, (1878), was mother to Bessie M., Flora B., Wesley and William J. who was born in 1897.

William was born in Port Stanley, attended school here and worked as a commercial fisherman. He was a member of the Methodist Church in Port Stanley. On December 20, 1915, at the age of 18, he and his friend Grant Jennings enlisted with the 91st Battalion in St. Thomas. Following training he was shipped overseas and attached to the 58th Battalion Canadian Infantry, Central Ontario Regiment.

The fall of 1917 was one of the wettest on record in France. The suffering of the soldiers in the Battle of Passchendaele was the worst of the entire war. William was not the only one whose body was not recovered. There were 60,000 others.

It was while he was enlisting that the spelling confusion started. The young McKenzie boy had clearly written his name the way the family always spelled it. For some reason an 'a' was added above the line, perhaps at the insistence of an enlistment officer.

McKenzie Enlistment

Two months after William left Canada, his father was drowned from the fish tug Hattie Berry owned by William Berry.

William McKenzie left behind his wife and a young son, Robert. Robert McKenzie kept the family tradition alive and volunteered for service in World War Two. (See Bless 'Em All). He married a widow, Theda Vaughan, and the obituary of Theda McKenzie is still available online.

The McKenzie family included some of the finest people who ever lived in the village. Levi's daughter, Geraldine married Murray Jones of Boxall. They both died this past winter. Their sons, are Norman and Grant, the latter being the Reeve of Southwold.

Beth Hyde, of Union and Cathy are their daughters. Millard McKenzie, took over the family farm on the 12th concession. Eric and Joe lived at the family home at the foot of Joseph Street in Port Stanley. Daughter Aletha, married Fred Jones (no relation to Murray). All of the McKenzie family here were much admired by everyone who knew them.

The obituary notices in local newspapers in 1917, including the Aylmer Express, listed the dead soldier as William McKenzie.

This information is contained in the book A Distant Drum: Port Stanley Men and Women who served in the Great War 1914-1918, available at Foodland, Mackies and other outlets.

The information has also been made available to Sally Martyn who is council's spokesperson on the changing of the name of Edith Street.

It will be unfortunate if that mistake is not corrected. The evidence for McKenzie versus MacKenzie is overwhelming.

It should be noted that Grant Jennings also died as the result of wounds he received in battle. The memory of his sacrifice should be preserved.

Research provided by Nancy and Frank Prothero.

Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 September 2018 08:44:38 AM EST

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