|Date of Birth||July 5, 1900|
|Place of Birth||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Annie Hamel (mother), Norman, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Labourer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Norman, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||March 15, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||15|
|Theatre of Service||Canada|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Buried At||Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery, Burlington, Ontario|
Joseph Hamel (Hamill) was the son of Anna Leclair/Leclerc and her first husband Thomas Pelletier. Anna and Thomas were married in 1899 in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Joseph was born there on 5 July 1900, his birth registered as Joseph Anthony Stephen Pelletier. Thomas appears to have died by 1901 and Anna then married Henry Hamel. Anna and Henry had two sons, Alfred (1903) and George (1905), both born in St. Boniface (now part of Winnipeg). Henry and Anna were still living in St. Boniface when the 1906 census was taken but by 1911 they had moved to the township of Jaffray on the outskirts of Kenora, Ontario. Henry was farming and the household included his brother George and their father Amedé. By 1915 they had moved to the village of Norman, just west of Kenora. They had a daughter, Rose Marie, who was born in Norman in September 1915.
Joseph was only 14 years old when the war started and he enlisted in Kenora on 15 March 1916. He was 15 years old by then but he passed himself off as 19, with his birth date recorded as 17 March 1897 and his surname as Hamel. His occupation was labourer and next of kin was his mother Annie Hamel in Norman. He signed up with the 94th Battalion, which was being recruited in northwestern Ontario. Joseph may have trained with his unit for a few days but he was discharged on 22 March, just a week after enlisting, as he was “not likely to become an efficient soldier.” His uncle George Hamel had enlisted in February 1916 and he served in France with the Canadian Forestry Corps.
When the 1921 census was taken Joseph was living in Norman and working at a sawmill. His parents had returned to Manitoba by then and taken up farming in the Springfield district. Joseph was married in Whitemouth, Manitoba on 8 September 1924. His wife, Waleria/Valeria Webb (nee Milko/Melko), was born in Russia, the daughter of Martin and Mary Milko. She immigrated to Canada in 1907 and her family settled in Whitemouth. Valeria married John Henry Webb in 1911 and they had at least three children. They farmed in Whitemouth until John’s death in 1923, at age 41.
At some point Joseph’s parents moved back to the Kenora area. His sister Rose Marie married Arthur Leydier in Kenora in 1933 and sadly she died in 1936, at age 20. Joseph’s mother passed away in Kenora in 1944, his brothers both died in 1966 and his father in 1970. They are buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora along with other family members. Some of them had changed the spelling of their surname from Hamel to Hamill and Joseph did as well.
Joseph and Valeria had at least one son, Lawrence. By the 1940s they were living in Hamilton, Ontario and federal voters lists over the next twenty years show Joseph’s occupation as glassworker, benchworker and handyman. By 1968 he was retired and still living in Hamilton. According to a family tree on ancestry.com Joseph passed away in 1977, Valeria in 1980 and Lawrence in 1982, but these dates have not been confirmed. They are all buried in the Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery in Burlington, Ontario.
By Becky Johnson
Photo courtesy of the Milko public family tree on ancestry.com.