Ceremony honours century-old sacrifice

Penticton Freemasons and RCMP members pay tribute to police officer gunned down 100 years ago

  • Mar. 27, 2012 12:00 p.m.
Freemason Melvin Sherwood pays his personal respects at the grave site of Masonic brother Geoffrey Aston at Fairview Cemetery following Sunday's memorial concluding ceremonies. Today is the 100th anniversary of the B.C. Provincial Police officer's death as a result of a gunshot wound. For story and photographs see Page 3.

Freemason Melvin Sherwood pays his personal respects at the grave site of Masonic brother Geoffrey Aston at Fairview Cemetery following Sunday's memorial concluding ceremonies. Today is the 100th anniversary of the B.C. Provincial Police officer's death as a result of a gunshot wound. For story and photographs see Page 3.

It was a cold, spring morning when Penticton police officer Geoffrey Aston boarded a Kelowna-bound paddle wheeler with two shackled prisoners in tow.

The three were given a private berth on the SS Okanagan for the 5:30 a.m. sailing. However, little did Aston know he would be lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life before the day was over.

Just over a week later, on this date (March 28) in 1912, the 52-year-old died from the single gunshot to the head fired by one of the two men.

Because Aston had no known family in the area, his small grave in the historic Fairview Cemetery has remained largely untended for the last century.

Until last Sunday.

A member of the Orion and Greenwood lodges of the Freemasons, Aston’s burial plot now has a new cement marker and is adorned with two bronze plaques commemorating his life and service thanks to the fraternal organization.

On the weekend, a graveside memorial concluding service was conducted in full regalia involving the Masons, current and past RCMP members and other special guests.

Aston was an officer with the North West Mounted Police before joining the B.C. Provincial Police where he was working at the time of his death.

During the service which included the playing of the last post by RCMP Cpl. Bryce Petersen, a bouquet of white flowers, the traditional Freemason apron and sprigs of evergreen representing the immortality of the soul were placed at the burial site.

After the ceremony, B.C. Freemason Grand Master Bill Cave explained the importance of remembering his departed brother.

“It’s a chance for us in a very small way to bring attention to the community and those who have fallen before us,” said Cave. “It’s for the rights and freedoms we have today. It’s all too easy for us to wake up every morning in our comfortable homes and forget the people who made it possible for us to have the life that we have, so this is just a small opportunity to say thank you.”

Retired RCMP officer Bill Biden agreed: “It’s your history that gives you your freedoms — and we started out a hundred years ago, and a hundred years later we’re still striving to keep our freedoms.”

In his 1958 report, Reg Atkinson, the city’s first museum curator, described Aston as a “large, well-proportioned man with fine features and a heavy black mustache, in all displaying a fine soldierly bearing.”

Although he had not been in town long, Aston’s outgoing personality and songs quickly earned him immense popularity.

Before coming to Canada he had served in several countries as a member of a crack British calvary unit. A fine horseman Aston first served with the North West Mounties before joining the provincial force locally.

Although never married, he brought with him a horse which was a constant companion, the pair being described as inseparable.

It was the night of March 16 the officer first learned of an armed robbery in south Kelowna by a man named Walter Boyd. On the lookout for the suspect, Aston arrested him and a male companion two days later at the B.C. Hotel on Front Street.

Plans were hastily made to return the men to the crime location the next morning, and just after midnight they boarded the CPR vessel.

Once underway, it’s believed the officer removed the handcuffs from Boyd, who pulled a previously undetected .22 calibre handgun from his shoulder holster and fired what would be the fatal shot.

Getting the keys, the pair freed themselves and walked off the boat during a scheduled stop in Peachland. They were seen leaving by a crew member, and during a subsequent check of the cabin Aston was found lying on the floor in a pool of blood. An intensive manhunt in the Valley eventually turned up the suspects.

Boyd was later convicted of murder and hung for his crime on Aug. 9, 1912 in Kamloops. For providing evidence against him his companion was released and ordered to leave the country.

Aston’s remains were returned to Penticton where he was given a full military send off.

His flag-draped coffin was carried through the streets on a horse-drawn wagon followed by his empty-saddled steed with its “masters boots and spurs in the stirrups at the reverse.”

A long line of Boer War and other veterans were also part of the procession which made its way slowly to the cemetery where he was interred

Now at his final resting place the words of the Masons simply read: “Our brother lived respected and died regretted.”


Just Posted

Lightning in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms overnight

Justin Fotherby,17, and Ashley McMillan, 17 have been chosen for an invitation only competition that sees 20 of Canada’s top swimmers per event vying for a spot at the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Submitted)
Penticton swimmers off to Olympic trials

The pair are eyeing a spot on the Canadian team heading to the Tokyo Olympics

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Renderings of what the skating rink could look like beside City Hall between Martin and Main in downtown Penticton. (Activate Penticton image)
Outdoor skating rink back at Penticton council

City staff recommend going forward with rink which could host 2022 BCHL’s 60th year celebration

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

Most Read