Police honour life of Inkerman ‘farm boy’

by Matthew Uhrig
Press staff

INKERMAN – He was a farm boy, born and raised in Dundas County, who wanted more, needed more, and sought his future on Canada’s west coast.

John McMenomy left the family homestead in the Inkerman area, ending up in Vancouver, where he joined the city’s police force as a constable.

The 22-year-old was assigned to what was at that time known as the “B” sub-station in Kitsilano, a neighbourhood on the west side of the city. Prior to his time out west, McMenomy had served with the Dominion Police of Canada, a predecessor to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

On Nov. 1, 1913, just 10 months into his policing career with the Vancouver force, the young constable attended a call at West 8th Avenue and Cypress Street, only a few blocks from his home.

A short circuit was causing an arc-style street lamp to sputter, and the “cut out” box was aflame. McMenomy stood beneath the streetlight, taking hold of the rope used to raise and lower the lamp. He then gently shook the rope, believing this would seat the arc lamp and stop the short circuit.

Instead, the streetlight, as well as others on the block, went out, causing total blackness. Sensing danger, McMenomy immediately let go of the rope, and warned two small boys playing in the area to move out of harm’s way.

Still working to correct the problem, McMenomy then returned to the pole to attempt to turn the lights back on. He reached for the same rope, not realizing however that a live electrical wire had broken off the top of the pole. The cable was hanging down beside the pole about four feet from the ground, but in the darkness, McMenomy could not have seen this.

As he reached for the rope, the metal buttons on his tunic came in contact with the wire. He was electrocuted, collapsing to the ground. When an ambulance arrived a few minutes later, McMenomy was still alive, but barely. He would die en-route to the hospital.

On Fri., Sept. 26, members of the Vancouver Police Department’s Ceremonial Unit gathered at McMenomy’s graveside at Knights Cemetery near Inkerman to honour one of their own.

“This has been a project of mine, to give [the fallen officers] the proper honour they deserve,” Const. Bill Taylor said.

McMenomy’s modern day colleagues also added an additional marker to his grave, noting his service with the Vancouver force and that he was killed in the line of duty.

Taylor said he was first inclined to research the deaths of his colleagues after visiting the National Police and Peace Officers Memorial in Ottawa. He said he passed a small cemetery where officers in dress uniform were laying a wreath at a grave. Taylor then discovered this is done annually by particular police forces, in observation of each member killed. He then began to research the final resting place of each of the 16 Vancouver police officers that lost their lives while serving, including McMenomy.

Last summer, to mark the centennial of McMenomy’s death, a small contingent from the west travelled to Inkerman to verify the gravesite, and to place a wreath. A passerby noticed the procession, and after discovering the purpose, led officers to the McMenomy farm, which still exists mere kilometres from the cemetery.

“I knew about my great uncle, but as a kid I didn’t really appreciate it as much as I do now. This seems very appropriate to do,” Robert McMenomy said. “My grandfather and father would have been really happy with this. Unfortunately they aren’t alive, because they would have been really been touched by this.”

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