A bow and a curtsy Manitobans recall meeting the queen as children
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Before meeting Queen Elizabeth when he was five, Landon Klassen practised his bow over and over so he’d get it just right during a ceremony at Winnipeg’s Children’s Hospital.
He breathed a sigh of relief when “everything went perfectly,” despite the nerves he felt when he presented a basket of flowers to the British monarch on Oct. 6, 1984.
“It’s humbling in a sense, thinking about it now,” said Klassen, whose thoughts returned to his brief encounter with the queen when her death was announced Sept. 8. “Looking back at it now, it’s a neat part of my history.
“How many people get that opportunity? It doesn’t happen to too many people.”
Klassen, now 43, was undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatment for cancer when he was chosen to give flowers to Elizabeth.
She was there to mark the opening of a new five-storey Children’s Hospital building at Sherbrook Street and William Avenue.
Dressed smartly, the kindergarten student from Morden received applause from the audience when the smiling queen leaned down to accept the flowers.
Klassen, who had hair loss during his treatments, wore a red baseball hat.
After his moment in the spotlight, he took a seat in the front row while the ceremony continued.
The queen took part in the unveiling of a dedication plaque, which marked the date of her visit.
Later, Klassen attended a reception with his parents, Jake and Debbie, and his three-year-old sister, Jaclyn, who had joined him at the ceremony.
Klassen, who finished his treatments and was declared cancer-free, has kept photos from the day, along with newspaper articles and a VHS tape that contains a recording of TV news coverage of the event.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” he said Thursday.
Britain’s longest-serving monarch was 96 when she died at Balmoral Castle, her retreat in Scotland, last week.
Her funeral will be held at Westminster Abbey in central London Monday.
She visited Manitoba six times during her 70-year reign, with the last in the summer of 2010.
On Oct. 8, 2002, the queen and her husband, the late Prince Philip, stopped in Winnipeg during a tour of Canada to mark her golden jubilee.
Then nine, Chelsea Longland and three other girls from across Canada were selected to present the queen with a golden jubilee coin set from the Royal Canadian Mint.
They had won a national contest, which asked children to submit a question they would like to pose to the queen.
The advertised prize was a coin set.
Longland’s entry stated she would ask Elizabeth which job or career she would have if she wasn’t queen.
Months later, she received a phone call telling her she was one of the winners, and there was an added prize: She would be flown to Winnipeg to present the collection to the queen during an event at The Forks.
Longland, from Townsend, Ont., and the other girls were shown how to curtsy while being given instructions on where to stand and how to follow the Royal Family’s protocol.
“They said, ‘Don’t say anything to her unless she says something to you,’” the 29-year-old said.
When the coin set was handed to the queen, she replied: “Thank you, that’s very lovely.”
“I was young, so it was surreal. I didn’t realize how big it was until I was older,” said Longland, whose family had accompanied her on the trip. “I feel honoured to have met her. I’m really grateful for the experience.”
After the presentation, a journalist asked Longland what she thought Elizabeth’s career should be, if she wasn’t queen.
A hat designer, she replied, “since she always wore nice hats.”
Longland said her mother was told to expect a letter answering the girl’s question, but for reasons unknown, one never arrived in their mailbox.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.