Linda Jones has a deep-rooted connection with veterans.
The respect the Maple Ridge entertainer has for the men and women who serve – and have served – their country is literally in her blood.
Her grandfather was a First World War veteran and during the Second World War, Jones’ father Trevor Nash was a member of the Saskatoon Light Infantry (SLI).
Nash survived not only the war but also the London Blitz, one of the most notorious bombings of Britain.
He was working overtime, putting barbed wire in place to make strategic areas inaccessible for the enemy, when German bombs fell on London on Sept. 7, 1940.
Nash passed away five years ago. His daughter dedicates her concerts to him and all the Canadian veterans, past and present, who fought for freedom during the two world wars of the 20th century.
Jones describes herself as a “variety entertainer.”
“I run the gamut from old Klondike shows with the flaunts and feathers and fun stuff and I work through the early 1900s into the First World War,” she said. “I used to entertain a lot of First World War vets. My forte is the ’40s but I also do comedy – everything you can think of.”
Jones also wrote a country music CD, Stepping Out.
She started singing for veterans after meeting a couple who once performed in a nightclub in downtown Vancouver many years ago. The husband was a veteran, a recipient of a military medal for bravery.
“He took a bunch of guys out a burning ammunition truck,” Jones said.
As time passed, the trio entertained at ballroom dances and regular dance clubs.
One day, Jones suggested that they perform variety shows.
“They took me under their wing and showed me a lot of stuff,” Jones said.
She was already familiar with much of the music from that era, having heard her dad sing the ditties around the house.
“So I had an affinity for it,” Jones said. “I saw there was music of every genre that you could think of, but there was nobody doing the veterans’ songs anymore. There was nobody bringing back their memories. They were the ones who gave us the freedom to listen to the kind of music we like.”
Jones continues this tradition of filling that void this Sunday (Nov. 4) starting at 3 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 88, in Maple Ridge. Accompanied by keyboardist Patty McGregor, she will perform songs from the Second World War era, and to add levity, will sprinkle in bits of comedy. She appears in costumes of that era and her version of a Canadian military uniform.
Due to limited seating capacity in the Lounge, tickets are on sale only to legion members and their guests only at $5 each.
“This is my seventh year running for performing for this particular prelude to Remembrance Day,” Jones said.
Among the songs she sings at these shows: Vera Lynn classics such as White Cliffs of Dover, When the Lights Go On Again, I’ll Pray for You, and carry-overs from the First World War such as It’s A Long Way To Tipperary and Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag.
When she sings these songs, Jones often sees veterans singing them right back to her.
“I’ve dedicated my career to them [veterans],” Jones said. “They’ve been such a true blessing in my life and I really get quite emotional about them because so many memories come back for me when I’m singing. I have to really concentrate sometimes because I get drawn in.”
She sees her dad in the veterans’ faces.
The Lynn song You’ll Never Know is one that touches Jones deeply. She sang it to her father whenever he came to her shows.
The lyrics are, in part, You’ll never know just how much I miss you. You’ll never know just how much I care. And if I tried, I still couldn’t hide the love for you.
Years ago, Jones performed at the White Rock legion. When she was finished, a First World War veteran approached her, cane in hand for support, tears rolling down his cheeks.
He shook Jones’ hand.
“He said ‘Thank you so much. You brought back so many memories. Some good, some bad, but it’s been a fantastic day,’” Jones related. “That’s when I knew I was doing what I meant to do.”
Her efforts in keeping those memories alive were recognized in April, 2008 with a Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation award.
“It’s essentially an award that was created for veterans in aid and service and support of other veterans,” Jones said. “Occasionally, a non-veteran can be a recipient, so I was honoured to be a recipient of that. It was like the icing on the cake of a very long, very happy, and very proud career.”