|Date of Birth||February 22, 1899|
|Place of Birth||Kirkfield, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Henry Wilbert Kearns, father, Fenelon Falls, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Farmer|
|Battalion||34th Fort Garry Horse, Depot Service Squadron|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Conscripted|
|Address at Enlistment||Treherne, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||May 30, 1918|
|Age at Enlistment||19|
|Theatre of Service||Canada|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||August 17, 1965|
|Age at Death||66|
|Buried At||Bethel Cemetery, Treherne, Manitoba|
Ernest Wilbert Kearns was born on 22 February 1899 in the Kirkfield-Yelverton area in Victoria, Ontario. His father Henry Wilbert Kearns was from the Township of Fenelon while his mother Mary Ann McLeod was from Mariposa, also in the area. The couple married on 13 January 1896. Children born to the family were Elva Lois (1897), Francis Clement (Frank) (1898), Ernest, Ethel Myrna (1900), and Margerite Aileen (1901). Henry first worked at farming and in later years as an insurance agent. Sadly Mary Ann died of tuberculosis in 1909 with the family unit then disintegrating. The children were sent to live with friends and relatives in both Ontario and Manitoba. By the time of the 1911 census Ernest and his brother Frank were living with Howard and Jane Henders and family in Manvers, Durham, Ontario. Although they were listed as nephews on the census, a relationship was not found. Ernest later went to live with his father’s brother Nelson Kearns and family in the MacDonald Township, South Norfolk in Manitoba. He was listed as a hired farm labourer on the 1916 census. His father married Josephine Grace Davey in 1918 but died of tuberculosis two years later.
Drafted under the Military Services Act of 1917, Ernest was called up for service on 30 May 1918 in Winnipeg. Living in Treherne, Manitoba at the time, his place of birth was given as Kirkfield, occupation as farmer, and his next of kin as his father in Fenelon Falls, Ontario. He was assigned to the Depot Service Squadron of the 34th Fort Garry Horse with the rank of Trooper. Ernest was hospitalized at Tuxedo Park for most of July and into August with a case of the measles, given six days of sick leave upon return to the unit on 3 August. With the end of the war he was discharged from service on demobilization on 6 January 1919 in Winnipeg.
Ernest’s brother Frank enlisted in April of 1917, going overseas to serve with the Royal Canadian Dragoons. First reported as missing on 30 March 1918 and then later as killed in action, with no known grave Frank is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial.
On 20 January 1926, in Winnipeg, Ernest married Verna Maud Stinson. Born on 16 June 1903 in the RM of South Norfolk, Verna was the daughter of Copeland Josiah Stinson and Edith Susanne Spinks. Ernest and Verna were to make Winnipeg their home, giving birth to two children, Jack Clement (1926) and Hazel Doreen (1928). Ernest worked for the Metro Transit System of Winnipeg for thirty years, first as a bus driver and mechanic and then as an inspector. The family spent summers at their camp on Lake of the Woods and after his retirement in February of 1964 he and Verna moved to Keewatin.
Ernest died on 17 August 1965 in the Kenora General Hospital. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Verna, son Jack of Great Falls, Manitoba, daughter Doreen (Albert John) Collings of Winnipeg, and four grandchildren. He was also survived by his sisters Elva (George) Hutton of Redvers, Margarite (Arthur) Shaw of Saskatoon, both in Saskatchewan, and Ethel McGill of Carberry, Manitoba. At some point Verna moved back to Winnipeg where she died on 9 October 1983. Ernest and Verna are interred in the Bethel Cemetery in Treherne, Manitoba.
By Judy Stockham
Grave marker photograph provided by Darryl Toews