The candle has been burning for Carolyn Russell’s whole life to find out more about her dad.
And now decades after his mysterious death on the battlefield in the Second World War, it’s like Rifleman Oswald Edmond Cameron is reaching out to help answer his childrens’ questions that have lingered for 72 years.
The Sarnia woman left for Holland Saturday night to visit the grave of the dad she last saw in 1944 when she was six-years-old and he left Toronto for Europe to fight for Canada.
She hopes not just to see where he died but to also learn about how he lived.
“You can say that I will be walking exactly in my father’s last footsteps,” said Russell.
She will be able to trace those steps thanks to a stroke of serendipity.
Prior to joining the Regina Rifle Regiment, Oswald Edmond Cameron was a milkman who made his deliveries on horse and buggy. He volunteered to go to the war and fight for his country and was killed in action Feb. 27, 1945 in Kleve, Germany.
He’s buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, Holland.
And that is about all Carolyn and her brother Ken have known about him for all of these decades.
“My mother (Madeline Guerin Cameron) got a telegram of his death and she received a picture he was carrying with him of me and my brother and that’s about it,” she said.
The rest has been a family mystery. Until now.
Turns out Ossie may be gone in body but his spirit is still very much alive. And his legacy.
Just by chance, a Dutch couple they are in touch with on social media named Hans and Anne van Benthum-Jansen recently stumbled across some interesting information.
“On Christmas Eve, they, with 75 volunteers put a candle on all of the 2,700 graves and at dusk lit them,” said Carolyn.
When they got to Ossie Cameron’s grave there was a man standing there. His name was Hendricks and he asked if he could light that specific candle.
Why this grave? Why Ossie Cameron?
He had a good reason. Turns out Ossie had stayed as a billet in Hendricks’ mother’s home in the two weeks before he was killed.
“(Hendricks) was 16 at the time and remembers my father,” Russell said.
Not only that but he was in Ossie’s company just before the Canadian went off to the battle where he was killed.
Carolyn knew she had to talk to this person.
“I was only six when he died and while I do remember him and certain things, there are so many questions,” she said.
So Carolyn, her husband Ross, and her children Scott, Todd and Jody were heading for Holland Saturday evening to re-trace their family hero’s final weeks. The trip will also include a second home that has now been discovered where he also stayed. That family still has letters written to Ossie from their late mother who the family says never got over losing her beloved husband.
“We understand they even have my father’s signature in a guest book,” she said. “I plan to go to that house and knock on the door.”
She has so many questions.
“All of these years later we should now finally find out what happened to our dad and get to meet some of the people who he got to know and who got to know him before he was killed.”
And she will finally learn more about a man she vaguely remembers and has wondered about for decades.
That man, Ossie Cameron, was a brave Canadian who gave his life to help liberate the people of Europe of Nazi occupation. That man was Carolyn Russell’s father.
Some candles don’t burn out and some family reunions are worth waiting for.