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(Posted 4:30 p.m., June 21)
Navan marks 75th anniversary of OPP officer's tragic death

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Hal Dent (left) and Murray Dent stand in front of a memorial to their grandfather and father Cst. Harold Dent who was shot to death by a drifter in the Navan train station on June 20, 1940. Fred Sherwin/Photo

It's been 75 years since OPP Cst. Harold Dent was gunned down in the old Navan train station by a drifter named John Miki who had robbed a an establishment in Quebec the day before.

Miki, was a 54-year-old Finnish immigrant, of which very little is known. On the morning of June 20, 1940, he took a ferry across to Cumberland and walked to what today is Trim Road where he asked Norm Edwards for directions to the nearest train station.

Canada had been at war for just over a year, and foreign- speaking strangers carrying a ruck sack aroused suspicions. After talking to Miki, Edwards called Dent who jumped in his squad car and made his way to the train station where he confronted the stranger in the waiting area.

Two shots rang out and Dent dropped to the floor as Miki fled out the door and across a field to the south of the train station which stood on the old CN Rail line near the corner of Smith and Milton Road.

Both bullets hit Dent, who died of his wounds, but not before he told a fellow officer to take his gun and go after his assailant. Sgt. Allan Stringer was off duty when he overheard that his colleague had been shot. His wife ran the local phone exchange out of their house just down Smith Road from the station.

Stringer tracked Miki down in a nearby woodlot with the help of a local farmer named George Smith, and shot him dead in an exchange of gun fire.

Dent was survived by his wife Wilma and their three-year-old son Murray, who was the guest of honour at a special dedication ceremony on Saturday. A stone memorial marking the 75th anniversary of Dent's tragic death has been installed beside the Prescott-Russell Trail near where the old train station once stood.

Along with Murray Dent were three of Harold Dent's grandchildren including his namesake Hal Dent, who also served with the OPP in the former Cumberland Township.

The entire family were tremendously honoured and touched with the efforts made by the Cumberland Township Historical Society and the village of Navan to keep their family member's memory alive.

The Historical Society published a book entitled "Murder in Navan" in 2004, and produced an online exhibit that can be found www.virtualmuseum.ca.

"It's a great honour for our family," said Hal Dent. "It's nice for something like this to be remembered and to celebrate the life of my grandfather and his service. And it's nice for my father as well who never knew his father and had a difficult time growing up."

There were no pensions and no spousal support for widows back in 1940, leaving Wilma Dent, who never remarried, to raise her only son in poverty.

"There wasn't a lot of support in those days and he grew up in poverty, but he went on to have a successful career with the RCMP and he raised a family of his own and he overcame the cards he was dealt," said Hal Dent.

Among the members of the public in attendance for Saturday's ceremony was Eric Smith, who was 19 when the shooting took place and was one of the first people to arrive at the train station when Dent was shot.

"What I remember the most was the excitement of it all. The adrenaline was really flowing. We arrived at the station the same time Stringer and Doc Irwin arrived," recalled Smith. "In fact, it was my dad who drove Stringer down to Spears Bush and heard the shots ring out."

According to Smith, only 20 minutes elapsed between when Dent was shot and Stringer shot Miki in Spears Bush. The complete story of Dent's shooting and the events that took place afterwards can be found at www.orleansonline.ca/pages/N2004012801.htm.

Funding for the plaque and stone marker were acquired through the city in a joint effort between the Cumberland Township Historical Society and Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais and his staff.

"We were chatting in the office about how to celebrate the 75th anniversary and the Historical Society had originally put in a grant application for the plaque so through the commemorative naming process we actually got the ball rolling and it all came together pretty fast," said Blais.

Funds have also been approved for additional amenities at the rest stop which could include benches or further landscaping at the site.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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Posted Jan. 12



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