Charles William Reay passed away more than 60 years ago, but his service to the Flin Flon region has not been forgotten.
Dignitaries gathered at the Flin Flon RCMP station on Wednesday to unveil a plaque in honour of Reay, the only detachment member who has lost his life in the line of duty.
Reay, a constable, drowned in the Churchill River at Island Falls, SK, then part of the detachment’s coverage area, on Oct. 6, 1955.
He had been working in a canoe when he stood up and tried to start the stalled motor. He lost his balance and fell overboard. The canoe drifted away with the life preservers still on board.
Flin Flon had been Reay’s eighth posting in an eight-year career with the RCMP. Just 27 at the time of his death, he left behind a wife and a daughter. He is buried in Camrose, AB.
Staff Sgt. Maj. Wayne Foster of the RCMP’s
D Division, a former staff sergeant with the Flin Flon detachment, led Wednesday’s plaque unveiling ceremony.
He noted that the RCMP Veterans’ Association and the Slain Peace Officers Fund have partnered to pay for plaques to recognize Manitoba Mounties who have died in the line of duty.
Foster said the RCMP itself has funded plaques for members who died from 1972 onward, but there were none for those who died prior to that year.
“I think it’s really nice of our vets to take on this initiative to honour those members that died in the line of duty,” he told a handful of invited guests.
Sgt. Mark Svaren, the current commanding officer of the Flin Flon detachment, applauded the effort “to recognize members that have come before us and served before us and made a sacrifice before us.”
Flin Flon mayor Cal Huntley said fallen RCMP officers deserve the recognition, adding that he hopes future fatalities are limited.
Leslie Beck, a retired Flin Flon Mountie and a member of the RCMP Veterans’ Association, said she appreciates the camaraderie that exists between retired members and those who are still on duty.
“We are still…part of a big family,” she said.
Foster noted there are efforts to have lakes named after fallen RCMP officers. He noted one such lake already exists north of Flin Flon: Strongquill Lake, named in honour of
Cst. Dennis Strongquill, who was shot dead after a traffic stop outside Russell, MB in 2001.
“So hopefully we’ll see more lakes named after our fallen members,” he said.
Foster said plaques have or would also be unveiled at seven other Manitoba detachments: Grand Rapids, Gillam, Swan River, Dauphin, Brandon, Selkirk and Churchill.
At Wednesday’s ceremony, Father Paul Bringleson, an RCMP chaplain, led a prayer in honour of Reay and all RCMP officers who have served and continue to serve.
Reay initially engaged with the RCMP as a special constable and became a regular member a year later.