Lenard Douglas Reggin
The Early Years
Lenard Douglas Reggin was born to Peter Reggin and Mary Nicol on October 13, 1891 in Maple Creek, North-West Territories (now the province of Saskatchewan). Tragically, his mother died at an early age in December 1899, when Lenard was barely eight years old. Peter, wishing to start a new family, moved back to Ontario where he had grown up, and there he remarried. Lenard and his three brothers were left behind to be raised by other family members or friends. His elder brother Herbert and younger brothers George and John went south to Minnesota to be raised by their aunt Katherine. Lenard was the sole child to remain in Canada.
Lenard’s brothers found life with their aunt to be harsh, as she was a severe disciplinarian, and Herbert and George would eventually run away to make their own fortunes, with only John being officially adopted by Katherine and her husband George Webster. In contrast, Lenard’s life seems to have been a happier one. According to the 1906 census, he appears to have lived for a time with a man by the name of William Croft. However, the majority of his youth was spent with the prominent Maple Creek family, the Abbotts, whose farm was near Mr. Croft’s.
William Richard Abbott was bom in Manchester, England, then moved to Ontario, Canada where he joined the military. Like Lenard’s father, William came west to the territories to be a part of the North West Mounted Police force. Later he ran the town’s general store and was Maple Creek’s Mayor from 1904 to 1906. Raised by William and his wife Jane, it is likely that Lenard’s values of hard work, community service and dedication to family were shaped by his foster family. Lenard’s respect for and friendship with William and Jane is revealed by their continued correspondence and visits long after Lenard had left Maple Creek. Indeed, Lenard even chose Abbott as the middle name of his eldest son, Osborne.
Lenard must have felt the pull of the big city as he was growing up in rural Saskatchewan, as the 1911 census reveals him living in Langdon, Alberta, a short distance from the rapidly growing city of Calgary. Unfortunately, the peace and prosperity of the 1912 boom would be shattered by global conflict, and Lenard found himself drawn into the battles of World War I.
The First World War
On February the 9th, 1916, at the age of twenty-four, Lenard signed attestation papers indicating his willingness to serve in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force as part of Canada’s military contingent in World War I. The regimental number assigned to him was #808506.
Lenard left for England aboard the Olympic, departing from Halifax August 21, 1916 and arriving in Liverpool, England on the 30th. The overseas battalion to which Lenard was assigned was the 137th, the Calgary Regiment. Starting at the rank of Private, he was appointed Lance Corporal on September, 25th. However, on December 2nd, just prior to leaving for active battle on the continent, Lenard chose to revert back to a Private.
On December 5, 1916, Lenard left England to join the 49th Overseas Batallion, the
Edmonton Regiment (sometimes called the Alberta Regiment), for active duty on the battlefields of France and Belgium.
Lenard’s first introduction to the war was in the relatively minor skirmishes around the French town of Arras. However, even if casualties from bullet and bomb were light, living in trenches amidst the winter rain and snow paid its own toll on the body. Thus on February 1, 1917 Lenard was sent to the No. 7 Canadian Stat. Hospital in Harfleur to recover from a bout of influenza. While recovering, he furthered his convalescence by spraining his ankle, for which he was moved to a hospital at Havre, and was finally discharged again on February 6th.
The battles around Arras were preparatory to the Battle of Vimy Ridge. This battle has become legendary in the Canadian psyche as the point at which the Canadian forces overcame obstacles that had previously thwarted the British and French forces and proved victorious in the taking of the strategically important ridge. The battle began April 9, 1917 and ended four days later. The 49th Regiment’s role was primarily supportive, acting as stretcher bearers, ammunition carriers and reinforcements, a role that reinforced the superb planning that enabled the defeat of the German army. Never forget that the price of this victory was 10,602 wounded and 3598 killed Canadians and more than 20,000 German casualties.
The spring and summer of 1917 the 49th spent its time in the Lens sector, and it was once again a relatively peaceful stretch. Never-the-less, on August 13, 1917 Lenard received his first battle injury, shrapnel wounds to his right arm. He was treated in the hospital at Etaples and was discharged on the 19th. The peace was short-lived, and on October 22, 1917 Lenard entered into his second major battle as part of the Edmonton Regiment – the Third Battle of Ypres, better known as the Battle of Passchendaele. It was a devastating battle, with three quarters of the regiment killed or wounded during a major advance on the 30th of October. Lenard was to be one of these casualties as he received significant shrapnel wounds to his side below the right axilla on November 1, 1917. The wounds were severe enough that he was transported back to England to be taken care of in the hospital at Bath and the Convalescent Hospital at Woodcote Park, Epsom. He was finally discharged more than a month later on the 4th of December.
By this time physically unfit for active military duty, Lenard was attached to the 2nd
Canadian Corps Depot in Bramshott, England December 29, 1917. February 9th, 1918 he was attached to the 21st Reserve Battalion, where he undertook four weeks of further training in various army skills such as drill, musketry, bombing, rifle bombing, bayonet, anti-gas, lewis gun and rapid wiring training.
November 11, 1918, the day the First World War ended, Lenard sailed for home aboard the Aquitania, arriving in the port of Halifax on the 28th. On January 31st, 1919 Lenard Reggin was discharged from the Canadian army by reason of “being medically unfit for further service although fit for employment in civil life”. His medical card lists his afflictions at time of discharge as defective vision and adhesion of left lumbar muscles.
The Post War Years – Family, Industry and Church
With the madness of the war finally over, Lenard was able to concentrate on more productive and peaceful pursuits. After returning home to Canada, Lenard moved to Calgary proper, and began working in the metal trades – the industry upon which he would have an immense influence. By 1922 he was employed by the Western Steel Products Company, which produced a variety of prefabricated steel products. Working as an accountant and sales manager, he quickly established a reputation of hard work and excellence.
It was during this time that Lenard met a young woman originally from Bolton, Lancashire, a small city near Manchester, England. Alice Smith had moved to Calgary with her family in 1911. She and Lenard met, fell in love, and were wed in 1922 in the beautiful brick First Baptist Church, just south of downtown Calgary. Shortly after, Alice gave birth to a son, on October 27, 1923. Os was followed by a baby brother, John Lenard (affectionately known as Jack), in April 1927.
In 1931, after being laid off by his previous employer, Lenard decided it was time to be his own boss. Utilising his expertise and experience, he founded Reggin Roofing and Metal Works Ltd. He bought a failing sheet metal and roofing firm, one of the many victims of the great depression that was sweeping the nation, and quickly turned it into a profitable business. Over the years the company expanded into heating and refrigeration, and the production of steel furniture for hospitals and other institutions. Lenard also attempted to enter the potentially highly lucrative Alberta petroleum industry, setting up the L.D. Reggin
Drilling Company. It is unknown how successful that venture was, nor whether it ever progressed much further than the purchase of some mineral rights in the Calgary region.
As well as spending time with his family and at the office, Lenard was a devout and devoted member of the congregation at First Baptist Church. He was a Superintendent of the Sunday School, organised the church’s Entre Nous Class, was Chairman of the Deacon’s Board, and was made a lifetime Deacon.
Tragically, it was while returning home from a Baptist convention in Lethbridge, Alberta that he and Alice passed from this world. While driving along highway two from Lethbridge to Calgary on June 5, 1958, Alice lost control of the car near the village of Aldersyde, and it slammed into the roadside embankment, killing herself, Lenard, and two other passengers instantly. A third passenger died shortly after. The accident was recorded on the front page of the Calgary Herald, which reported that Alice likely had had a heart attack, which caused the crash. They were interred in Queen’s Park Cemetery in Calgary. Lenard will always be remembered for his commitment to family, church, and industry. The company that he founded, now split into two and called Reggin Industries Inc. and Reggin Technical Services Ltd., is but one of his lasting legacies.