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SERMONS FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS AND ISSUES
FUNERAL SERMON FOR CANADA'S LAST VICTORIA CROSS RECEPIENT
By The Major Rev. Jim Short


Smokey Smith was Canada's last Victoria Cross winner from World War II. He died in August 2005 and was honoured across the country. After his mortal remains were laid out in Ottawa his body was flown to Vancouver for his funeral service. The Major Rev. Jim Short, minister at Ladner United Church and Senior Chaplain of the 39th Canadian Brigade Group, was the the chaplain for what was called "Operation Valour". The following is the funeral homily he preached.

The Message of Hope: Funeral of Sgt. Smokey Smith
Saturday August 13th, 2005 at
St Andrew’s Wesley United Church – Vancouver BC
By Major the Reverend Jim Short, CD


No more Canadian Victoria Cross winners…was my first 
thought upon receiving the phone call that Smokey Smith had 
died…the last of a distinguished group of World War 2 
Victoria cross winners that included names like Cecil 
Merritt, Jack Mahoney and Padre John Foote…

Yet, that’s not really the place to begin today…
As we remember with thanks the life of Smokey Smith…

We’re not celebrating a medal…we’re celebrating the life of 
a man who also happened, in his life, to win the Victoria 
Cross…

+++
 
We might begin by remembering his parents…John and Flora 
Jane Smith…talk about courage…

During the 2nd World War – their three sons, Smokey, Bert 
and Jack all served in the Canadian Army…during the war 
years, their two daughters…Pearl and Norma died in 
Vancouver…

Smokey was more than a Victoria Cross…

Smokey was a son, a brother, a comrade and friend, a 
husband, a father, a grandfather…

Lieutenant General Price Montague said to Smokey after he 
received his VC from George VI  “For the rest of your life, 
you will be very important…. Do you think you can handle 
that.” 
 
Smokey’s response was “I think I can”…and that he 
did…Smokey was not wholly defined by his medal… but rather 
he defined his Victoria Cross with his colorful 
personality, wit, humor and charm…

Everyone has a Smokey Story…

One family member might tell you about failing a Grade 
School History test because she could not answer the 
question about her father’s VC, while the boy sitting in 
front who knew the whole story of Smokey passed….  After 
all he was, in her words, simply her father…

The grandchildren would remember being sent by Grandmother 
Esther into the basement of her and Smokey’s home to find 
something to use for Christmas stockings – and up they came 
with Smokey’s highland Lovett – hose – long and stretchy 
and good for holding all kinds of treasures…. highland 
soldiers with children beware…

Today we gather with gratitude to remember the fullness of 
a man who happened also to have won a Victoria Cross…

If you want to know what Smokey meant to so many people… 
look into the eyes of these young men and women from the 
Seaforth Highlanders of Canada… and see their affection…

They knew Smokey not as some distant stuffed shirt 
dignitary at a head table…. wearing a medal… but as someone 
who knew them…sat with them, listened to them, shared 
stories with them…and knew their names….

Seaforth Highlanders of Canada…  Smokey would be very proud 
of all of you this week…
 
No more Canadian Victoria Crosses…

How does a man who has won the highest award have heroes 
himself…  who does he look to…

If you have browsed the numerous online condolence messages 
you would come across this one…

From the parents of Master Corporal Mark Isfeld, a Canadian 
Military Engineer…killed in Croatia in 1994 on his third 
peacekeeping tour…removing mines…

Mark’s father, Brian remembers the trip to Ottawa on 
November 11th, 2000… he and Carol drove to the War Memorial 
with Smokey as Carol had been chosen as Canada’s Silver 
Cross Mother… have been awarded a Memorial Cross – given to 
mothers and spouses who have lost a child or partner while 
serving Canada in time of war.

Brian had been talking to Smokey who recounted his stories 
to him.  Commenting on Smokey’s’ medals, he mentioned they 
must have been kind of heavy.

Smokey replied, ”Not nearly as heavy as the one your wife 
wears… all my heroes are dead and your son is one of them.”

Smokey was a great friend of the Canadian Forces…

Who knows… perhaps Canada’s next Victoria Cross winner mans 
an Observation Post; or helps load desperately needed 
supplies on to an airplane; or steers a ship standing watch 
on some coast…

Perhaps he or she is in training right now somewhere across 
Canada… preparing to do what Canadians military personnel 
have always done… helping good people in far away places…

+++

No more Canadian Victoria Crosses… has become, for me a 
kind of prayer through this week…

In the Year of the Veteran, we remember, with gratitude and 
thanks, the service and the sacrifice of Canadians through 
the monumental conflicts have the 20th & 21st Century…

Smokey’s family would tell you that there father was not a 
violent man nor was he someone who liked conflict… and so 
we began by hearing the words of the prophet Micah… who 
dared to dream of a world…

      Where swords were beaten into ploughshares
      And spears into pruning hooks…
      Where nation would not lift up sword against nation 
      And neither would we study war anymore…
 
The remains of the bronze cannons captured during the 
Crimean War are guarded by the Royal Logistics Corp in 
London and delivered occasionally to the appointed jeweler 
for the casting of Victoria Crosses, one of which was 
recently awarded to a British soldier in Iraq.

Perhaps some day, those bronze cannons will be used for 
some other peaceful purpose…in that day that Micah calls us 
to… when it no longer becomes necessary to award the 
Victoria Cross… for warfare itself will have ceased… and a 
new day of peace and justice will come to pass. 

What moves me most when I read Smokey’s VC citation is that 
in the midst of war, carnage, unimaginable horror and 
bloodshed, Smokey put his life on the line to save his 
friend Jimmy Tennant. 

May we, in this country of Canada, who have so very much to 
be thankful for… be willing to put our lives on the line to 
build a world where peace and justice reigns and good will 
and plenty is available to all of God’s children, all 
around the world. AMEN. 


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