(The family of the late RCAF veteran Roger Griffiths attended the Veterans’ Commemorative Street Naming ceremony held at Ottawa City Hall on November 7, 2022. Daughter Lynn Griffiths is sitting in front on the left; son Ian Griffiths is sitting in front on the right; daughter Heather Kristjansson is standing in the centre wearing the blue suit; and daughter Jean Graham is standing to the centre right wearing a red blazer. Photos: John Major, City of Ottawa)
Originally named Roger Griffiths Avenue in 2016, the man and the street were honoured on November 7, 2022 with a Veterans’ Commemorative Street Naming ceremony at Ottawa City Hall (a partnership with the City, Veterans Affairs Canada and the Royal Canadian Legion). The street sign now features the universal sign of remembrance – a poppy – in memory of his service to Canada. Being Veteran’s Week, Mayor Jim Watson hosted the ceremony to honour Roger Griffiths for 2022, a long-time Stittsville resident and Second World War Royal Canadian Air Force veteran. When Stittsville’s Bob White submitted the nomination for the street name – Roger Griffiths Avenue – he ensured that Roger’s legacy and commitment to our Stittsville community would be remembered.
Arthur Roger Griffiths (known as Roger) joined the Royal Canadian Armed Forces in August 1942 in Montreal with service in Lachine, Victoriaville, Moncton, Arnprior, Trenton, Cartierville and Borden. He served the duration of World War II with no overseas service. He was an instructor and trained Commonwealth pilots at CFB Uplands and at Carp Airport. Griffiths, who died in 1988 at the age of 73, was commissioned to flying officer in October 1943 and discharged in October 1945.
After reminiscing with Lynn Griffiths about our earlier years here, we spoke about her father and the ceremony. She told me, “this honour will be a lesson for all of us – his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It was a lovely ceremony – the military presence of the two Cameron Highlanders who played ‘The Lament’ and the military bugler who played ‘Taps’ and the ‘Reveille’. To meet Elder Claudette Commanda in person and to have the two Ottawa Poets Laureate in attendance – Albert Dumont representing the English population and Gilles Latour the French – was a honour for me. To hear the renditions of ‘In Flanders Fields’ was emotional.”
Lynn noted two positive outcomes. “As we listened to Elder Commanda speak, it was extremely moving. I had heard her speak previously, but to hear her speak in person at the ceremony, then sit beside her and talk, was inspirational.”
“I think we were the largest group of family members at any ceremony. There were three from Virginia and one from Halifax, and from Ottawa, my family and our invited close family friends – Marion and Andrew Gullock because I felt it was important to have someone from the Stittsville Legion that knew and worked with Dad.; Bonnie Warner and her son Jordan McConnell were there representing Bonnie’s dad who was also a vet (Korean War in his case) and someone who knew and worked with dad at the Legion – and Tracy Schultz, President of the Stittsville Legion Branch 618 was invited to represent the Stittsville Legion – Dominion Command. The room was full,” chuckled Lynn.
Roger Griffiths was a long-time resident of Stittsville who served as councillor for the Township of Goulbourn from 1977 to 1988 with a break between 1978 and 1982. As a councillor he consistently considered issues with a wide Goulbourn perspective and not just the needs of Stittsville. He was the first councillor to pass away while serving in office. Roger had also been a volunteer firefighter for 21 years with the Goulbourn Township Fire Department and when he retired in 1978, was Captain.
Roger not only enjoyed his civic duties, but was entrenched in many other community activities as well. He coached several teen hockey teams in Stittsville over the years and was on the executive of the Stittsville 56’ers senior softball team. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge; sang in the choir at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church where he singing voice was always beckoned forth; he played Santa Claus and sang carols for years at the Sunshine Club’s annual Christmas dinner; and, his singing of the national anthem and interpretation of Danny Boy had been heard across area Legion branches and at almost every community event in Stittsville.
While Roger was the fabric of our community, his day job was at Bell Canada where he worked for numerous years. Upon retirement in 1980, his volunteer ethic continued when he became the president of Bell Canada’s Retirees Club until his death in 1988.
A fun side of Roger – when he was councillor, he had received many calls from residents to fix the rough road condition around the old railroad tracks on Stittsville Main, Roger stepped in to help out the former Goulbourn roads department. He was on-site as the ‘flag man’ when the repairs were being made. He had offered his services to Cory Paauw, the road department’s director. John Curry, who owned the Stittsville News at the time, was able to catch this new ‘flag man’ in a photograph (we are trying to track this photo down for the Griffiths family).
Aside from all the community involvement that Roger Griffiths took part in, the one cause close to his heart was the Stittsville Legion. Having been a member since 1971, he was named a life member in 1982. His work as the Poppy Chairman brought in increasing donations each year and because of this, the branch provided more and more bursaries to Stittsville students for post-secondary education. He was instrumental in working towards the creation and installation of a Stittsville cenotaph in 1981-82. The cenotaph was originally located at the old Municipal Office on Stittsville Main where the Library stands today.
Mr. Griffiths, served as the Royal Canadian Legion’s Zone Public Relations Officer for two years; served on the Canadian American Veterans Reunion Association Steering Committee and was made a life member of the Association in 1988.
Roger’s volunteer activities with the Stittsville Legion included his work on almost every committee and he had served for five terms as the President. For this, and just two weeks before his death in 1988, he had been presented at the Remembrance banquet of the Stittsville branch, the Royal Canadian Legion’s highest honour – the Legion’s Meritorious Service Medal.
Roger also received many other commendations through the years:
- the Golden Anniversary Medal in 1976
- in 1981, 1982 and 1984, he received Certificates of Merit
- Certificates of Appreciation were received in 1983 and 1988
- in 1985, he was proudly presented with the Diamond Jubilee Medal
Upon discharge from his years of service to the Armed Forces, Roger Griffiths was awarded the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and War Medal 1939-1945, as well as the General Service Badge and Royal Canadian Armed Forces Reserve Badge.
“Canada is the country it is today because of brave individuals like Roger Griffiths. Mr. Griffiths served our country during World War II, and I am honoured to recognize and reflect on his legacy with our community today,” said Mayor Jim Watson.
Local developers can participate in the Veterans’ Commemorative Street Naming Program by naming streets within new housing developments. Richcraft Homes accepted Bob White’s 2016 nomination to name Roger Griffiths Avenue, located in Stittsville’s Mapleton subdivision in 2020.
It was then that Lynn, “asked the Councillor if there could be a poppy. That started a process that included the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Royal Canadian Legion as only they could approve the poppy. Then Dad was chosen as this year’s celebrant”.
Lynn ends our conversation with, “my Dad lived a complete life of service from day one”.
Roger Griffiths unarguably exemplified volunteerism and community spirit.
Veterans are commemorated with a street sign that bears their name as well as the poppy – the universal sign of remembrance.