Gilbert Ryckman

Pte. Ryckman was shot in the thigh while fighting... but as horrible as it may have been to be wounded, he gained a wife and eight children from it.

Private Gilbert Ryckman was shot in his right thigh while fighting for the 97th Battalion in France. But as horrible as it may have been to be wounded, he gained a wife and eight children from it.

Sent to a convalescent hospital in Aldershot, England, Ryckman recovered well enough to attend a dance, where he met Mary Louise Judge, a store clerk in town.

Romance bloomed, and just like that, she became a war bride. Judge joined Ryckman at his home and farm in Monitor, Alberta, shortly after he was discharged on February 7, 1919. “My mother was one of the lucky World War One brides — when she came to Canada she came to a house,” said daughter Mary Louise Williams.

Servicemen sometimes exaggerated about how much property they or their families owned. But when Judge arrived in Monitor, she learned her new husband had been honest with her. “When she got to Monitor on the train, she looked and she couldn’t see dad and she thought ‘oh dear.’ But she saw this handsome man standing there and she thought, ‘my, the men in western Canada [are] good-looking’ and anyway, it was my dad.

Judge and Ryckman had a happy relationship and often danced and played cards together. However, tragedy struck in 1951, when Ryckman died of a massive heart attack. On the night of his death, he had been watching the television news. Judge had been reading in bed. “When dad went to bed, she moved over and she said, ‘your side of the bed is warm and I have to move over on the corner,’” Williams explained. Ryckman responded jokingly, “That’s the way it should be… you warm the bed up for me.”

“Those were the last words he said to her,” Williams said. Judge outlived her husband by another forty years, dying in 1994 at age ninety-six.

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