He waited his entire life to do this

He waited his entire life to do this


Eighty years. 

That is how long Douglas Doan Jackson waited to visit his uncle's grave at the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery in Ortona, Italy.

Jackson was born the same year that his beloved uncle, Private Charles Henry Doan, was killed in battle in Ortona – the site of some of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War.  

This past Remembrance Day, Jackson travelled all the way to Italy from Richmond Hill, Ont., to participate in the annual ceremony hosted at the cemetery by Canadian College Italy.

Jackson made the trip with his son, Mark Jackson, Doan’s great nephew, who said the journey was “extra special,” because his father “had been wanting to visit Ortona to pay respect to his uncle for his entire life.” 

Private Charles Henry Doan was born in 1911 in Kenora, Ont. He was described as a “gentle soul” who found joy in fairs and carnivals and simple pleasures like carving soap.

Eventually, he became a member of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. He died on December 15, 1943. 

Despite only being a baby when “Uncle Harry” was killed, Jackson always felt a strong connection. 

“My uncle … didn’t really keep in touch with the rest of the family, other than my mother,” said Jackson, who received the middle name "Doan" in his uncle’s honour.

“I have been the only one that has had any interest,” he said.

That connection drew him to the rows of white grave stones, to where he finally found Uncle Harry's resting place.

“It was very emotional,” said Jackson of the experience. “I have seen the pictures but have never been to my great uncle’s grave.”

Douglas and Mark Jackson laid a wreath in Private Doan’s honour. The younger Jackson also read a poignant address on his father’s behalf.

Their journey of remembrance started before coming to Italy when father and son visited the Vimy Ridge Cemetery in France to visit Jackson’s great uncle, Edward Megill, who fought for Canada in World War One and died in battle on March 9, 1918.  

Full text of Douglas Jackson’s remarks, as read by his son Mark Jackson:

“As I stand here today, in the gentle shadow of history, I am profoundly moved by the honor bestowed upon us to remember a hero— my Uncle Private Charles Henry Doan (Uncle Harry). In this poignant moment, I am not only the nephew of a valiant soldier but also a vessel of gratitude, bearing the collective appreciation of our family for the life and legacy of a man whose bravery echoes through the ages.

Uncle Harry, a Canadian soldier whose story is woven into the tapestry of our family, embodied courage and sacrifice. From the idyllic town of Kenora, Ontario, he ventured forth into the tumultuous waves of World War Two. His reasons for joining the military may remain a mystery, but his bravery and commitment to our country were unassailable. He was more than a soldier; he was a gentle soul who found beauty in the simplest of things. The joy he found in fairs and carnivals, the artistry in carving soap, and the fascination he held for trains—a connection to his father’s labor—that revealed his profound humanity. His life, though tragically cut short, was a testament to resilience, family, and unwavering courage.

Uncle Harry was woven together with the threads of family. He had three older sisters, Dorothy, Teddy, and my mother Irene, whom, in the cruel twist of fate, shared an unbreakable bond with him. When tragedy struck and their father (my grandfather) was claimed by the unforgiving waters in a boating accident, it was their mother who steered their ship, nurturing them through the storm. Yet, fate is often a bitter companion, and it was in the theater of war that Uncle Harry met his untimely end. His passing left a void, a chasm of sorrow that gripped my mother Irene’s heart. Their connection was more than familial; it was a profound friendship, a bond that transcended the boundaries of blood. In her grief, she made a solemn vow—a vow to immortalize his name in her own son, Douglas, adding ‘Doan’ as a testament, a living tribute, ensuring that the echoes of Charles’s bravery would reverberate through the corridors of time.

In this moment of remembrance, I am reminded not only of the bravery of Uncle Harry but also of the collective sacrifice made by countless others. I extend our heartfelt gratitude to all those who diligently tend to this sacred ground, the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery. Your dedication ensures that the final resting places of heroes like my Uncle remain places of solemn beauty, where their memories can be cherished for generations to come.

Furthermore, I wish to express our deepest appreciation to the Canadian College Italy, whose noble efforts in honoring the fallen remind us that the sacrifices made by brave Canadians, will never be forgotten. Your commitment to preserving the memory of those who fought for our freedoms resonates deeply with our hearts. It is through gestures like yours that the legacy of heroes continues to live on, reminding us of the immense price paid for the liberty we hold dear.

In closing, let us carry forward the legacy of Private Charles Henry Doan, and all the courageous souls who stood alongside him. Let us, with hearts brimming with gratitude, honor their memory through our actions, our kindness, and our commitment to a world where peace triumphs over conflict.

Thank you, from the depths of our hearts, for standing with us in this moment of remembrance and for keeping the flame of their bravery burning bright.”