Once again, our volunteer of the week is an essential worker. Henry Thomas Webster worked as a shipyard labourer, construction worker, harvest labourer and railroad worker, all vital jobs even in times of crisis. Webster was born in England, but we do not know when he immigrated to Canada, where he lived in Vancouver, BC.
Van Rensalaier Chase Junior was a volunteer from Calgary, Alberta. He worked as a sailor, currier, janitor, and as a party organizer in the Communist Party. He arrived in Spain in June 1937, where he served in many units including as a telephonist. He was taken prisoner during the retreats, but was freed in a prisoner exchange in October 1938. He travelled to the United States. He was initially rejected by the United States Army because of his health, then joined the Merchant Marine and served during World War II. He died in 1985 in Los Angeles, California.
In recognition of our essential workers, we have two volunteers to feature this week.
First: Ray Harris, a Russian-Canadian nurse. Harris was born in Russia in October 1910. After moving to Palestine sometime during her childhood, Harris's family moved to Winnipeg, where her father owned a small candy factory. Eventually moving to New York City, Harris studied to become a nurse, graduating in 1933.
Michael Berezca was a Ukrainian-Canadian volunteer in the Spanish Civil War. Berezca immigrated to Canada in 1930. He, like most Ukrainian Canadian volunteers, came with the second wave of immigration from Ukraine. He was wounded in the foot at Villanueva de la Cañada, but he survived the war and returned to Canada in 1939.
Our Volunteer of the Week is Gerald Charles Shea, an Irish Canadian who fought in the Spanish Civil War. He lived all over Canada, from Vancouver, BC to Glace Bay, NS, working as a miner, logger, fisherman, and cowhand. He was a member of the Communist Party, the Relief Project Workers’ Union, and the Vancouver Sports Club. He participated in the On to Ottawa Trek. Shea served in many roles in Spain, including as clerk, corporal, and company party secretary. He was reported MIA and later hospitalized, but he survived the war and returned to Canada in February 1939.
Earl Rose was a volunteer who lived in both South Dakota and northern Alberta before fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Rose had a military history: he fought in the First World War and served with the RCMP. He also spoke Cree, but it is unclear if he was Cree. He was an older volunteer: he was 50 years old when he sailed for Spain.
Our volunteer of the week is Bill Williamson, a sailor, lumberjack, and photographer, and reportedly the first Canadian to fight in the Spanish Civil War. He is pictured here, on the right, with a Czech volunteer. He travelled widely during his life, from Regina, Saskatchewan to Australia, where he served six months in a militia.
John Oscar Bloom was a Spanish Civil War volunteer from Edmonton, Alberta. His nickname was Red, but this black-and-white photo does not reveal if he earned this name because of his hair. Like many Mac Paps, he also went by many pseudonyms and aliases, including Jean, Asselson, Alms, and Orville.
The volunteer of the week is Reino Keto! Born in Laihia, Finland on March 20, 1908, Keto immigrated to Canada in May 1930. Keto served with the Finnish Army for a year during the 1920s, and worked as a bricklayer, on a farm, in restaurants, and as a gymnastics teacher in Canada. His file notes he lived in Fort William, Toronto, and Worthington, Ontario, and that he was transient for a time. He was involved in sports organizations and, like so many other Finnish-Canadians, joined the Communist Party in 1930.
The volunteer of the week is Daniel Patrick! Also known as E.W. Petryk, he was Canadian of Ukrainian descent who was born on November 18, 1914. From Vancouver, Patrick spent time in relief camps before travelling to Spain in November 1937. Patrick served with the Mac-Paps until he was killed on March 17, 1938 at Belchite-Caspe during the Retreats.