At this time of year she wears two poppies at once, one on her blouse and one on her coat, because Sanna Denicola doesn’t want anyone who sees her – whether she’s inside or outside – to miss the fact that she is honouring all veterans with the symbol of gratitude.
Sanna has been volunteering for the Prince George Legion for the last dozen or so years doing whatever needs to be done because it’s the right thing to do, she said.
Sanna’s father was Sir Armand James Denicola, a decorated Second World War hero who earned many medals of honour and was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honour from France for his part in the liberation of that honour.
“I feel very blessed that I had a dad – and I know this sounds terrible – who went through the war because the good thing that came out of that was the awareness of what that meant to him as a person and how that shaped his life and how that, in turn, shaped our lives,” Sanna said of her family. “What better description of volunteerism is volunteering to possibly give your life for a cause, which is what he did – what all of them did. So here’s a man who is willing to give up his life for his country, the least I can do is give up some hours to honour what he did and I’m just trying to do what I can to keep the Legion alive in Prince George.”
The Legion has been struggling financially for the last six years in particular and it started even before the organization moved from its old location on Seventh Avenue to its smaller location at #101 1116 Sixth Ave., Sanna said.
“We continue to struggle because the regulars at the Legion are all getting older – as we all are – and it became very difficult to keep the place open,” Sanna said. “And for the last five years there’s only been one paid staff and that’s the chef, so everybody who is at the office, everybody who helps to run events, bookings for weddings, behind the bar, whatever it is, we are all volunteers and like every organization, it’s the same basic crowd, and we always need more. And the reason why I volunteer is because of my dad.”
Sanna explained that her dad was at Juno beach, one of five beaches of the allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landing on June 6, 1944 during the Second World War.
“My dad never really told us a lot about the war – he didn’t really like to talk about it - and it was only when he decided to write the story of his life and he wrote it all out by hand and he asked me to type it into a book and it was only at that point that I read and learned that he was even at Juno Beach and I must have been in my 30s before I even knew that about him,” Sanna said. “I was quite astounded.”
Within Legion #43 walls there is the Juno Lounge and on one of the corner posts is the image of Denicola.
“I think that is an incredible honour,” Sanna said.
There was a part in the book, Sanna recalled, that said that on his 21st birthday, her dad was fighting for his life in hand-to-hand combat.
“And after all that he turned out to be this amazing person – how many people go through trauma in their life and are horrible because of it and he was not that way – never talked about it, never wanted to be recognized for it but as a veteran always participated in the Remembrance Day ceremonies and we got taught that those were important. I remember attending as a small child and I have raised my children the same way from when I had to bring them along in baby carriers and to this day they still attend.”
Before Sanna started to volunteer at the Legion, she spent many years volunteering for the poppy campaign, selling poppies and dedicating as much time as she could to that.
“When I had my tray of poppies I would place my pictures of my dad on it,” Sanna said. “And people would say ‘oh, is that your grandpa?’ and I would proudly say ‘nope, that’s my dad,’ and that’s why I do what I do. He’s definitely my inspiration.”
For more information about the Legion, membership, its restaurant hours and events visit https://legion43pg.ca/