4:30 p.m., June 21)
Navan marks 75th anniversary of OPP officer's tragic death
By Fred Sherwin
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Historical Society published a book entitled "Murder
in Navan" in 2004, and produced an online exhibit
that can be found www.virtualmuseum.ca.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
have also been approved for additional amenities at the
rest stop which could include benches or further landscaping
at the site.
story was made possible thanks to the generous support
of our local business partners.)
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