|Date of Birth||February 1, 1893|
|Place of Birth||Trimble Springs, Hermosa County, Colorado|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Katie Ovens (mother), East Selkirk, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Farmer|
|Regimental Number||721717 and 2154027|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||304th Field Artillery Regiment|
|Force||American Expeditionary Forces|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Selkirk, Manitoba|
|Address at Enlistment||East Selkirk, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||January 28, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||23|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||April 19, 1987|
|Age at Death||94|
|Buried At||Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
Private Thomas Earl Ovens was the son of Isaac Ovens and Katherine (Kate) Winner of East Selkirk, Manitoba. Isaac was born in Ontario to Irish parents and Kate was American and of German ancestry. Their three oldest children were born in Colorado: Hilyard Verl (1891), Thomas Earl and Ruby Lenore. Thomas was born on 1 February 1893 in Trimble Springs, Hermosa County. Around 1896 his family moved to Canada and they spent a short time living in Rat Portage (Kenora), Ontario where a son, Edward William, was born in 1897. About a year later the family moved to East Selkirk and took up farming.
Around 1900 William Van Horne, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, started a very large and successful experimental farm between East Selkirk and Tyndall and Kate was hired as the first cook there. Isaac invented a new sharpening device for disk plows and he applied for a patent in 1904. He and his wife had five more children, all born in Manitoba: Vina Mae (1902), Albert Clifford (1906), Ines Mildred, Roy Nelson (1910) and Ira Richard (1913). When the 1916 census was taken the family was still farming in East Selkirk and all nine children were living at home.
The war entered its second year in August 1915 and Thomas enlisted in Selkirk on 28 January 1916. He was 22 years old, a farmer and next of kin was his mother in East Selkirk. He signed up with the 108th Overseas Battalion and they trained at Camp Hughes that summer. At the end of June Thomas was absent without leave for a week and on 12 September, around the time his battalion was leaving for England, he was struck off strength as a deserter.
The U.S. entered the war in April 1917 and Thomas signed a draft registration card on 5 June 1917 in Riverside Township, Fremont County, Iowa. He was living near the town of Randolph at the time and working for a farmer named Paul Fichter. He was assigned reg. no. 2154027 and he served with the 304th Field Artillery Regiment. Thomas went to France with his unit in the spring of 1918, sailing on the Leviathan on 24 April from Hoboken, New Jersey. They arrived in Brest, France on 2 May and took part in some of the final battles of the war, between August and November. The troops were back in Brest in April 1919 and they sailed home on the USS Agamemnon, arriving in New York on 29 April. Thomas was listed as a Private 1st Class on the passenger manifest and his Regiment was disbanded on 10 May. His brother Edward William had been called up for service in Winnipeg in May 1918 and he served in Canada for eight months.
Thomas was married in the RM of St. Andrews, Manitoba on 31 December 1919. His wife, Mary Anna Lane, was born in East Selkirk in 1901. Her father, George Lane, was from England and her mother, Nellie McNeill, was born in New Brunswick. Thomas and Mary settled in Winnipeg and they had three children, sons Earl (1920) and Buell and daughter Bernice (1925). Thomas served again in the Second World War, with the Veterans Guard of Canada, and his son Earl served with the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. After the war Thomas worked for the YMCA until he retired.
Mary passed away in Winnipeg on 27 February 1987, at age 86. Thomas died at home just two months later, on 19 April 1987, at age 94. They are both buried at Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens. Their son Earl passed away later that same year, in November 1987, and he’s interred at Mountain View Cemetery in Calgary. Their daughter Bernice McConnell died in Edmonton in 2009.
By Becky Johnson
Grave marker photo courtesy of Donald Schmidt (#47813253) on Findagrave.