CENTRALIA, Wash. — He fulfilled his duty to both country and community — but Austin Canaday likely wasn’t going to have a memorial with military honors when he died.
Canaday died May 8 at age 90, and the remains of the World War II veteran, who in later years volunteered with The Salvation Army and Greater Chehalis Food Bank, were transferred to family in California.
As he had no local family or close friends, it was up to members of the community to hold a service honoring Canaday’s time in the military.
On Saturday, at the Centralia Calvary Assembly of God, 50 people did just that.
In the front right corner of the church, the Patriot Guard sat dressed in motorcyclists’ garb, complete with American flags and names of fallen service members they remember. To their left, members of the Marine Corps League sat in their traditional red jackets and hats. Members of the American Legion Post 17 in Centralia stood at the church’s door, ready to carry out honor guard duties for the day.
“Another comrade has been called to the high command,” the Rev. Gary Graveline, chaplain for American Legion Post 17, said to open the service. “May you feel that he is at rest and in endless peace.”
The service was modest and brief, yet respectful and carried out with military tradition. Graveline shared a brief history of Canaday’s military service, noting the veteran was a supply truck driver and had served in Normandy, France.
“The thing that surprised me most was that he had no Purple Hearts,” Graveline said. “That tells me he came through unscathed.”
Canaday served his local community with the same dedication he did his nation, Graveline said. He worked even into his late 80s as a volunteer who helped the poorest in Lewis County provide food for their tables, and taught Sunday School classes at the same church in which the memorial was held.
Two soldiers from Camp Murray then proceeded to fold an American flag and present it to Mary Astrid, the woman who helped take care of Canaday in recent months. She kept in touch with members of American Legion Post 17 of Centralia, who then volunteered to serve as the honor guard for Saturday’s service.
After the Legionnaires fired into the air, Graveline closed the service by remembering Canaday’s faith.
“His favorite Bible verse was John 3:16,” Graveline said. “My fellow veterans, he now shares in that everlasting life. What a great testament to a life lived in service of this nation.”