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The Last Salute art book celebrates Canada’s oldest Veterans from World War II

October 3, 2023

(Toronto, ON)October 3, 2023

Stan Dinney, age 101, dodged German U-boats and sailed up the Suez Canal as an armourer with the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941. He loaded ammunition onto Canadian-made Mosquito airplanes when he was just 19. More than 80 years later, he reflects on how he coped with the pressures of wartime service as a young man.

"I felt really good that I belonged to the Adventure – the war itself. But when I think back now, it was actually more serious than I imagined."

Dinney’s stories and many others are included in a beautiful new art book that pays tribute to the Centenarian Veterans who call Sunnybrook home. The Last Salute – Portraits of Remembrance. Courage. Wisdom. Sacrifice. Joy was commissioned to help mark the 75th anniversary of the Bayview Campus of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre; it first opened as a military hospital 75 years ago. The Last Salute’s book release is also timed to help mark Remembrance Day 2023.

With stunning portraits shot by photographer Yuri Dojc and stories written by broadcast journalist Alannah Campbell, The Last Salute pays tribute to 40 of Canada’s oldest war Veterans with stories of courage and sacrifice, love and optimism.

Campbell, who interviewed the Veterans over the course of two months, reflects on what a remarkable experience it was to bear witness to their stories.

“Many of the Centenarians arrived in wheelchairs and walkers, one at a time, and spoke for up to an hour each. They leaned in. Spoke with such honesty. Tears were shed. Hands shook. Voices often trembled. But each Veteran exhibited such courage and humility. As one Veteran said, ‘If not now, when?’ The lessons they share are poignant and so relevant to the world we live in today.”

The Sunnybrook Foundation is also gearing up for its annual Operation Raise a Flag campaign in support of Sunnybrook’s Veterans Program. Donors who give $500 or more will also receive a copy of The Last Salute. All proceeds from the sale of The Last Salute, available online and at Sunnybrook Gift Shop locations, are dedicated to the Sunnybrook Veterans Program. At an average age of 95, those who call the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre home are living proof of the positive impact of the Veterans Program’s model of engaging, multi-disciplinary care.

Media contact:

Nadia Radovini
Communications Advisor
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

More about The Last Salute

In the summer of 2022, Slovak-Canadian photographer Yuri Dojc took striking black and white portraits of some of Canada’s oldest Veterans of the Second World War. All were 100 or older. They served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army, and the US Marines. All were living at the Veterans Centre at Sunnybrook Hospital. They were to be part of an ambitious project called The Last Salute.

Thirty men and 10 women sat for their portraits. Twenty-eight were well enough to be interviewed by Canadian broadcast journalist and writer Alannah Campbell.

The Last Salute celebrates all of them, in images, words, and sound. Portraits of the Centenarians, with their stories written by Alannah Campbell, enhanced with audio clips from their interviews.

Gale Garber’s father Phil Kommit joined the US Marines shortly after Pearl Harbour and was one of only 10 men from his original unit of 700 who made it home from the war. Sadly, Phil passed earlier this year, but his recollections and perspective were captured in The Last Salute.

“I’m so grateful that my father had this opportunity to share his story, and that his voice can be heard by future generations. There are so few Veterans of this era left today, it’s critical we learn from them, so that we never forget,” says Ms. Garber.

Additional notes from writer Alannah Campbell:

“This was an extraordinary project. To sit and listen to the stories of men and women who served in a world war more than 80 years ago was life changing. Think about it – they were all in their late teens or twenties when they signed up. Some were looking for adventure. Others felt it was their responsibility. Many wanted to learn to fly a Spitfire, sail the sea, explore new places - or simply be able to send money home to their parents in Canada. Almost all said they would have been embarrassed if they hadn’t joined the war effort.

Each Veteran told their stories with courage and spoke with humility. The lessons they share about how to live a good life after serving in the war are especially poignant. They laid everything on the table. And many of their families were surprised by their candor.

But as one Veteran said, 'If not now, when? The world continues to spin, wars continue to be waged. I’d hate to think our efforts didn’t make a damn difference! The lessons we learned are the lessons people need to hear today.’”

The Last Salute is a multi-media tribute - with a beautiful hard cover book, the photo exhibit with the 40 portraits of the Centenarians, audio clips from the interviews, and a compelling eight-minute video.

About the author:

Alannah worked as a CBC reporter, editor, documentary maker and co-host of The World at Six at CBC Radio in the 1980s and 1990s. For the last 20 years, she’s been an interviewer and producer at Soundportraits, recording hundreds of audio autobiographies for Canadians and clients living farther afield, with her business partner, Judy Maddren.