Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Conservation officers to be honoured

Three who died on duty focus of today's ceremony

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THEY died doing a job they loved and today the provincial government will formally remember them.

Charles Morrish will have an island named after him on Clearwater Lake near The Pas.

William McLeod will have an island named after him on Cormorant Lake, also near The Pas.

Robert Logan will have a lake named after him in Duck Mountain Provincial Park.

The three men worked as conservation officers for the province and died in the line of duty; Morrish in 1966, McLeod in 1967 and Logan in 1983.

Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh said the commemoration marks the death of a conservation officer in the same way the death of a police officer or firefighter is remembered.

'When I first got the call from the department saying they were going to do this, I was quite angry. It's taken so long -- 46 years later. But I got over that. I see it now as a celebration'

-- Cynthia Beadle, daughter of William McLeod, seen above in 1949

The ceremony at the legislature for the three men comes two days before Police and Peace Officers' National Memorial Day on Sunday. Six Manitoba conservation officers have died on the job since 1966.

"There has to be a greater recognition that conservation officers... are peace officers," Mackintosh said Thursday. "There hasn't been a formal recognition for these heroes."

For the families, it's about more than an acknowledgement: It's a chance to tell younger family members about a lost loved one and to show current conservation officers their work matters.

"When I first got the call from the department saying they were going to do this, I was quite angry," McLeod's daughter, Cynthia Beadle, said. "It's taken so long -- 46 years later.

"But I got over that. I see it now as a celebration."

McLeod was 10 when her father was shot in his legs by an impaired trapper and later died in hospital in May 1967.

She said the family picked the island on Cormorant Lake because when she was little they enjoyed afternoon picnics on the lake.

"We have to be able to get the message out that the job these officers do is dangerous," she said. "They put themselves into danger every time that they go out."

Morrish's daughter, Gayle Egan, agrees.

Her father died in April 1966 when his muskeg tractor fell through the ice. He had started working for the province in the mid-1940s. He operated a pickerel-spawning camp on Clearwater Lake used to stock the lake with fish.

"We're touched that somebody has finally recognized the work that these people have done," she said. "They put their lives on the line every day."

Egan said today's ceremony offers a chance to share her father's life with younger family members. "The rest of my family have no knowledge of him. It's basically pictures and a few stories here and there that we've told that they know him. Now, all of a sudden it's come to light that he was a real person and that he did some amazing things with his life."

That includes escorting writer Farley Mowat during his travels through Manitoba's north.

Robert Logan was killed in November 1983 when his vehicle went out of control on black ice while on patrol. His family will have a lake, near Childs Lake in Duck Mountain Provincial Park, named after him. The family picked it because his widow's three sons are cross-country skiers and the lake is near a trail on which they can ski. Logan also worked in the park.

"I think when conservation officers see that there are three men being recognized, I think that will give them more inspiration about what they are doing," Egan said.

The province also wants to recognize conservation officer Allan Assiniboine, who drowned in 1976 on Lake Winnipegosis after his boat exploded. Officials have been unable to contact his family.

The remaining two officers have already had an island and a point of land named after them at the request of their families, but outside the formal recognition process to be announced today.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2013 A8

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