Last Sunday evening I attended a Legion tribute for Comrade Helen Horne, a member of the Trenton Branch. She died last Wednesday following a massive stroke. Considering she had beat four bouts of cancer, there is almost an irony that it was a stroke who took her away from us.
Comrade Helen was the much beloved wife of our Chaplain at the Zone, District & Provincial levels, Padre Sid Horne, a retired Anglican cleric, had served in the military amongst his various ministry posts. Sid & Helen were a study in contrasts — he as tall as she was short; he every bit the extrovert, her very much an introvert; he enjoyed the limelight, she enjoyed the shadows. What the two of them shared were hearts as big as any could imagine, faith as strong as God himself and compassion which encompassed all who came within their loving embrace.
One never had to wonder what the two thought of each other, their love and mutual devotion was clear to anyone who chose to look. I don’t believe in all the time I had the privilege of being around them I ever heard a cross word pass between them. They would readily share the stories of the other’s exploits and foibles but always with a perspective of the humour.
I remember some years back when Sid was still the incumbent at the Royal Chapel on the Tyendinaga Reserve near Belleville. They parish had redone their memorial plaque honouring those of the reserve who had fallen in service to Canada. Sid had announced the date of the service at our District convention with an open invitation for all Legionnaires to attend. Helen told me after the event that when they were setting up and Sid had been asked how many Legion people to expect. He had replied “we’ll be lucky to see 50, it is a church service after all”.
The day arrived and 200 or more arrived to parade from the park to the Chapel for the service. It was one of those rare occasions I ever saw Sid at a bit of a loss for words. The chapel was packed to standing room only and many others had to stand outside for the service. Sid found his voice at the offertory though, and I noticed the broad smile from Helen as the first round of “Onward Christian Soldiers” finished and Sid thundered, “Sing it again, those guys outside aren’t getting out of giving their share”. She knew her husband wouldn’t be at a loss for words for long.
Helen loved her cats. In recent years she had up to four of them at home at a time. Sid had a dog, a small to medium size one of course, couldn’t have it intimidating the cats. I also love my cats and Helen made a point of learning about them as they came into the house, either personally or through pictures.
When we would meet, usually at Legion events or conventions, she would greet me with a very enthusiastic “How are the girls?” raising more than one set of eyebrows from people who knew me as a single person with no children. She’d then follow that with “oh yes, and how are you?”. We’d laugh and chat back and forth about what our respective animals were up to. It never really mattered that ‘my girls’ was actually two queens and a tom and those raised eyebrows would eventually figure it out.
As the long line of Legionnaires formed up in columns of three for the file past, moving slowly through the funeral home and through the receiving room to where Helen’s coffin sat complete with a line of stuffed cats perched on top of it I wondered what memories of Helen each of those comrades were thinking about. I could be pretty certain they were warm and caring, just like Helen was.
The girls are doing just fine Helen. I’ll miss you my friend.