Changing of the guard

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Military museum’s founder, Vincent Joyce, steps down

Vincent Joyce is giving up one passion to concentrate on another.

The founder, president and stalwart of the Pictou County Military Museum is retiring from that position, effective the end of September. He is moving to the Hammonds Plains area to be closer to family – including his two sons and his first grandson who is expected to be arriving in December.

“For 13 years now, the museum has been my passion and I loved every minute of being there. Even though I am leaving it and moving away, a part of me will always be here,” Joyce says.

In 2005, Joyce formed a board of directors of 11 military personnel to start at military museum in the community.

“I had quite of number of items in my home that belonged to my uncle, Sgt. V.M. Babineau, and a lot of stuff that I gathered when I was in the Reserves, The Highlanders. I always joke that my wife got tired of cleaning it,” he laughs. His wife, Pearl, is recently retired as Thrift Store and Family Services supervisor with The Salvation Army.

“I had a pile of friends who were in reg force and we got tired of things leaving Pictou County and going to other museums, being dumped in the garbage or being sold. So I got 11 members together, including myself, all veterans, and we decided to form the Pictou County Military Heritage Museum Association.”

Born and raised in Pictou, Joyce moved to Westville after he retired from the Hector Arena and fishing when he began to work for the Corps of Commissionaires at the Aberdeen Hospital. He worked there for nine years, all the while running the museum.

His request to the Town of New Glasgow to originally house the museum in the former police station on Dalhousie Street was met with unanimous support from town council. After work cleaning, painting and building display cases, it was opened there in July 2006 at which point it was opened to the general public to view the 2,000 military artifacts on display.

A year or so later, the museum needed to relocate. The Town of Westville was quick to make a location available, with even more space for the artifacts, ample parking and a wheelchair ramp at the entrance.

The museum has since grown into two large rooms and now displays more than 15,000 military artifacts, from the smallest military button to fully dressed mannequins. It portrays the stories and artifacts of the history of wars, and most importantly their personnel, up to present day.

The museum has had the honour of being visited by generals and other high-ranking military personnel in addition to MPs, MLAs and military personnel who have served in the past and present, in conflict and in times of peace.

He does not have a single most valuable prized possession, but Joyce values the museum’s Books of Remembrance.

“There’s a lot of very valuable things in here. This little museum honours all military personnel and has documented over two thousand veteran stories and pictures in the Books of ‘Remembrance’ which are on display here. A lot of things here are priceless but we don’t talk about price. The most valuable things to me are those military profile books that the Pictou Advocate is putting in every week. That is my most prized possession; that is what I love. I started out doing those books even before I thought of the military museum.”

Visitors have come from the local area as well as from across the province and all over North America and Europe. Comments in the visitors’ book include these: “One of the best museums I have ever visited.” “I would highly recommend this museum to all military personnel and to anyone with an interest in the military.” “Best I have ever seen and possibly one of the best in Canada.” Visit Trip Advisor to see other comments.

“This was my baby, this was my love,” Joyce nods at the museum.

Joyce says one of the things he will miss the most is meeting people — both the donors and visitors — from all over the world. “Also, I will miss very much the stories and visits from the many military personnel who visited our museum and told so many great stories.”

Vincent Joyce, left, hands David Avery the keys to the Pictou County Military Museum. Joyce is the museum’s founder and has been at its helm since it started. He has now retired.

(Jardine photo)

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