A Flag on Her Coffin

Cpl Audry Rutherford

Corporal Audry Rutherford (Stafford) 1943 in Edmonton

She told us many times over the years, that when she died, she wanted a Canadian flag draped on her coffin. She was proud to have served her country, and so, when our Mother passed away, in 2007, we contacted the Legion in Perth, and they were quick to deliver a flag to the visitation room, and place it solemnly over her casket, at the funeral home.

Flag on her coffin

Audry’s casket, Blair and Son Funeral Home, Perth, Ontario, April 2007

When a dozen Legion members arrived at the funeral home, before the visitation began, they handed each of us a poppy, and requested that we lay them on top of the flag, at the close of their ceremony.

They marched into the room, to the melancholy strains of the bagpipes, fittingly, as our Mother’s ancestors hailed from Roxburghshire, Scotland. The Legion members, all in uniform, proudly wearing their medals, filed by, and paused to greet each one of our family. These were not young soldiers, but many were in the later stages of their lives, and most were veterans of WWII, like our Mother. They were the survivors, who had witnessed many fallen comrades, but through the grace of God had been spared, and had lived, some burdened with dark memories of the war.

Often, at this time of year, I recall Mother’s quiet patriotism. She was, after all, a first generation Canadian. Her father, an American, born along the shores of the St. Lawrence River, in New York State, and her mother hailed from Huddersfield, England, but Mother, born at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, was all Canadian.

She never missed an opportunity to vote in an election, and would remind us that battles were fought and lives were lost, so that we could have this privilege. She embraced freedom of speech, and the freedom to choose one’s religion.

After her funeral, the five of us children, went through her things, and picked a few precious items to bring home as keepsakes. I spotted her journal sitting on top of a pile of books, picked it up, and began to flip through the pages. A small tattered piece of paper fell onto the floor. It was an old news clipping, brown and brittle with age, that she had cut out and saved, many years ago. As I began to read it, I realized how much the words summed up our Mother’s beliefs:


– by – Charles M. Province

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.


This story in memory of Cpl. Audry Rutherford (Stafford) R.C.A.F., W.D.




Remembering Mothers in Peace and War

Today, as we celebrate Mothers around the world, I would like to share a story often told by our late Mother – Corporal Audry Rutherford Stafford, RCAF Women’s Division WWII.  It’s the story of one of the most exciting days of her life – when she performed at the halftime show at Grey Cup 1943.

Mother grew up in Edmonton during the Great Depression.  When she turned sixteen and decided to find a part-time job, her father Charles Rutherford warned her that in those dark days of the ‘dirty thirties’ even men couldn’t find jobs, and that she would likely ‘wear out her shoe-leather‘ long before anyone would hire her.

Audry Rutherford and her mother Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford

Audry and her mother Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford in front of the family home in Edmonton 1936

Determined to find work, she took a street-car to the Eaton’s store in downtown Edmonton, walked in, boldly approached one of the clerks, and asked how she might find a position at the store.  The clerk answered – ” wear a crisp,white blouse, and a navy skirt, and come early in the morning, when the store opens, and ask to speak with the hiring manager”.  The advice worked and she got a job as a sales clerk.

Jasper_Avenue_1934_small (1)

photo:  Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, 1936


In 1939 the Second World War broke out in Europe.  As the next few years passed there were an increasing number of recruiting posters across the country, as more soldiers were required for the war efforts overseas.  Her brother Jack went to sign up, but because of his poor eyesight was rejected.  Hearing this, she grabbed her hat, headed down to the recruiting office, and signed up that day.  “Someone needs to represent the family in the war efforts“, she said.



After completing her basic training at the Rockliffe Air Base in Ottawa, and another round of training at St. Thomas, she was posted to the No.8 Bombing and Gunnery School in Lethbridge, Alberta.  It was while she was posted there she met a dashing young soldier by the name of ‘Tib’ Stafford, a charming lad from Drummond Township, Lanark County.



Photo: Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford and Audry Rutherford when they first began their courtship, downtown Lethbridge, Alberta 1943.


Corporal Audry Rutherford  RCAF  WD,  on a visit home to her parent’s place, in Edmonton in 1943.

Something very exciting was ‘brewing’ on the air base……

For the first time in Canadian history, a select group of airwomen were sent from their air bases to train as Physical Education Instructors. Twenty-one women in total were selected for this prestigious program, sent for a five-week training program, and were immersed in various active sports, exercises, developing team spirit, studying general health practices, and recreation.

Classes were held at the Margaret Eaton School in Toronto, and while many of the classes were conducted in lecture form, ‘Peter’, the skeleton, was used in the study of anatomy.

Section Officer Ruth Jernholm was in charge of the group. Miss Jernholm was a graduate in physical education from the University of Denmark, Copenhagen. She had come to Canada with her sister in 1929 and began her career teaching children in the Winnipeg public school system.

Airforce Women 1942 001
First Phys Ed Instructors


A highlight for these girls in the program was an invitation to perform at the half-time show at the 1943 Grey Cup game held on November 27th in Toronto. It was a day not to be forgotten, and a story told and re-told by our late Mother.





WWII women

photo left:  Audry Rutherford

Graduates of the first Physical Education Instructor’s Course

RCAF Women’s Division 1942:

L.A.W. Phyllis L. Reid, Toronto, Ontario
Cpl. Joy Galloway, Hamilton, Ontario
A.W.1 Naomi Carley, Consecon, Ontario
L.A.W. Margaret Chase, Aylmer, Ontario
A.W.1 Elizabeth Ann Tompkins, Port Credit, Ontario
A.W.2 Mary Crew, Barrie, Ontario
Cpl. Mary Howden, Vancouver, British Columbia
A.W.1 Helen Rocke, Vancouver, British Columbia
Cpl. Ethel M. Boyce,Vancouver, British Columbia
A.W.1 Maureen S. Martin, Vancouver, British Columbia
L.A.W. Violet Peck, Edmonton, Alberta
A.W.1 Audry Rutherford, Edmonton, Alberta
Cpl. Elizabeth Currer, Port Kells, British Columbia
A.W.1 Kathleen Mowbray, Cloverdale, British Columbia
A.W.2 Ethel McCully, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Cpl. Estelle Marcotte, Verdun, Quebec,
L.A.W. Nona Butts, Victoria British Columbia
A.W.1 Anne Turner, Victoria British Columbia
Cpl. Grace E. Nicoll, Mannville, Alberta
A.W.1 Mary Schommer, Leipzig, Saskatchewan,
Cpl. Alice Cuthill, Winnipeg, Manitoba


And so, today, as each of us remembers our own Mothers, let us also take a moment to remember the women who have served, and continue to serve their countries proudly, in times of peace and war.

Cpl Audry Rutherford


Happy Mother’s Day!

“At the going down of the sun……and in the morning
We will remember them.”                  

Lawrence Binyon


Women salute





Until we meet again…