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Cowichan Legion closing July 31 after 88 years of service

Cowichan Legion president Bruce MacDonald confirms his cash- and member-strapped branch will be history come July 31. - Peter W. Rusland
Cowichan Legion president Bruce MacDonald confirms his cash- and member-strapped branch will be history come July 31.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Cowichan's Legion closes at month's end after 88 years serving valley veterans and their community.

President Bruce MacDonald confirmed a recent News Leader Pictorial story explaining Branch 53 would shut July 31 due to membership drops, tough economic times, and other reasons.

A July 20 general meeting updated members on their Legion's demise. The branch is now under trusteeship with the B.C. and Yukon Command.

"We have month-to-month rental and we've paid for July," MacDonald sighed sadly of his branch in Duncan's Canada Building.

He and his crew are trying to salvage their branch's charter in case it can reopen in future.

"We're looking to see if someone will hold the charter for us; maybe the (Cowichan Valley) museum, or perhaps another Legion.

"If not, we'll have to turn it in to the B.C. and Yukon Command. If our charter's lost, we can't reopen."

Odds of reopening are slim, he signalled.

"We're not the only Legion closing," he said, citing B.C.'s new liquor laws and a paucity of parking contributing to the cash-strapped branch's end.

Cowichan Legion's array of artifacts are bound for Nanaimo's military museum, and the Cowichan Valley Museum.

Those vintage items, part of Cowichan's long military history, include rifles, a German machine gun, bayonets, swords, gas masks, helmets and more.

"Everything pertaining to the valley is staying here," MacDonald said, citing a totem that graced the Second World War minesweeper Cowichan.

Furnishings from the 266-member Legion, started around 1926, will be sold during Saturday's 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. closing-out garage sale.

"We are selling tables and furniture, and an LG flat-screen TV and a sound system."

The closure's loudest impact is loss of some $32,000 in annual poppy-fund proceeds the branch plows into student bursaries, grants to Cowichan District Hospital and Cairnsmore, Sunridge, and Cerwydden seniors lodges, and others.

"We have five $1,000 bursaries going to students going to university.

"It's very unfortunate; there's lots of money the valley will lose out on," MacDonald said, noting one member was even helped with his heating-oil bill.

Branch 53's end also means a lack of support for Afghanistan war veterans.

Geoff Millar, Cowichan's economic development manager, lamented the local Legion's loss.

"It's very sad. Legions are being stressed across the country because of dwindling memberships."

MacDonald shared Millar's dismay.

"We tried to help everyone we could."

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