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Historian finds family of local war veteran

Frank Martin’s grave at Holten Canadian war cemetery in the Netherlands - Photo courtesy Brehm family
Frank Martin’s grave at Holten Canadian war cemetery in the Netherlands
— image credit: Photo courtesy Brehm family

It only took a few days for a Cranbrook resident keen on history to paint a better picture of Sergeant Frank L. Martin.

On Tuesday, the Townsman published a story about a group trying to find more information on soldiers who died during WWII and are buried in Holten, the Netherlands. The group reached out for information on Sgt. Martin, as he was a resident of Cranbrook.

Dave Humphrey, Cranbrook Museum and Archives volunteer, saw the story in the paper and went about searching the archived newspapers of the day.

"I thought there'd have to be some things in the archived newspapers of the day," Humphrey explained. "I've actually scanned all the newspapers from 1898 to 1948."

Humphrey found Martin's death announcement. It appeared in the May 10, 1945 Cranbrook Courier. The short article notes that Martin's wife Lillian was notified of his death. She was living in Slaterville at that time. It mentioned that she had two children, Jean and Richard.

"I did a bit of a search on Jean and Richard and I tracked them through the high school," Humphrey said. "I sort of lost them at that point because on B.C. Archives you can't get very recent records; they won't release them."

Then, while browsing ancestry.com, he noticed that there were some families who had Frank, Jean and Richard on their family tree, so he contacted them and got into contact with Tom, Lillian's son from a second marriage, who it turned out was a bit of a family historian.

"He contacted me and between the two of us we worked out who the people were," Humphrey said.

It lead to Jean Brehm, who lives in Cranbrook, as well as her son Rick – Frank's grandson. Jean was amazed with how much information Humphrey had found.

"Strangely enough I already knew her," Humphrey said. "I didn't know the connection at that time.

"That was the basic premise, through the archived newspapers and through ancestry.com to get further information. Once I got their names I can go back and find more information."

Rick Brehm said his mom phoned him up after reading the article and was quite excited to hear about the group's initiative to find out more about Martin.

"I take these things on and not always successfully, but this happened to be a successful one," Humphrey said.

Mike Muntain, from the Welcome Back Veterans committee and part of the Holten Cemetery project, originally contacted the Townsman to put the information they were looking for out there. Humphrey contacted him with the information.

"He was absolutely delighted," he said.

Humphrey also found that in the Caribou region there is Martin Lake, named after the Sergeant.

"Canada, in collaboration with the provincial governments, is trying to commemorate our war dead with geographic place names," he said. "Martin Lake lies near the community of Burns Lake on B.C.'s Nechako Plateau."

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