Wilma McNeill was relentless advocate for veterans

Sarnia’s Wilma McNeill, seen during Sarnia’s 150th birthday celebration at City Hall in 2014. Glenn Ogilvie

Journal Staff

A Sarnia woman who fought relentlessly to have Remembrance Day designated a national holiday has died.

Wilma McNeill petitioned lawmakers for 29 years to reinstate Nov. 11 as a statutory holiday after Ontario changed the designation in 1989.

McNeill died on Feb. 4. She was 88.

“’Always in the Pink,’ she will be greatly missed by all who knew her and loved her,” tweeted Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley.

McNeill’s work involved innumerable letters, petitions, media interviews and the buttonholing of politicians at every turn. Out of it came bill C-311 – a private member’s bill introduced by Nova Scotia MP Colin Fraser. With Royal Assent, it gave Nov. 11 legal status under the Holidays Act.

“I hoped I would see this happen in my lifetime,” McNeill told the Journal in 2018.

“I’m happy, but it’s not about me, it’s about the veterans.”

The act, however, did not require Ontario to make Remembrance Day a statutory holiday, a cause she continued to push for to the end.

McNeill came from a military family in Prince Edward Island, and as an eight-year-old watched her brother go off to fight in the Second World War.

She also married into a family in which six siblings served, including her beloved late husband Edward, an air force captain and 23-year veteran.

One of McNeill’s sons was a naval veteran of 34 years, and another served as a peacekeeper under Lieutenant General Romeo Daillaire.