Wednesday, 11 November 2015

He was always part of my life........The Kenora Cenotaph

He was always part of my life. 

He is not laying in repose, nor displayed on bended knee, nor with his head bowed. Instead, he stands atop a roughly sculpted piece of granite, on a base of solid blocks of stone, looking towards the northeastern skies, forever silent, forever vigil.  Wearing a soldier’s uniform and great coat, he stands firm - boldly - a constant reminder of what was and still is.

A list of names, etched on a bronze plaque, is attached to the locally hewn granite.

It is the Roll of Honour: the names of the ninety soldiers from my small home town of five thousand, whose lives were taken in the Great War, in partial payment for the freedoms my country continues to cherish and value.

No other names have since been added, but there could be many, for the fallen from World War II was a much longer list.

This place of remembrance was created by Creber Brothers, of Toronto, Ontario, to the specifications of the Memorial Committee.

The entire cost of $8,000 was raised in less than one year by the townspeople: door to door canvasing, a carnival, teas, bazaars, and musical  performances in the little local opera house. All contributed to this community project.

Ever since that warm autumn day, September 7, 1924, this soldier has stood on the lawn in front of the courthouse in Kenora, Ontario - just one of the many memorials across this nation, dedicated to those who served, but never returned.

His nameless face is gazed upon, and most often remembered, when people gather around him on Remembrance Day, every November 11th.  We have placed wreaths and crosses at his base, said prayers, played The Last Post, and sung the traditional remembrance song, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”

I think of those who have died and all who have served in battles, conflicts, wars, and during peacetime.

I think of my relatives who served in World War II: both my parents – my mother in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps, my father with the 8th Canadian Infantry in Italy and, later, Belgium; my aunt, a nurse in France; and, my five uncles, one of whom was severely burned when his plane was downed near the English Channel.

I think of my husband, now deceased, whose sense of duty, commitment, pride and loyalty to his country, were formed in his fourteen years with the Canadian Armed Forces – without a single shot being fired. Like his grandfather before him, Wayne was mustard gassed, but not in the fields of Ypres.  Instead, it was on the training fields in Suffield, Alberta in 1968. The horrors never seem to end.

One monument, this one cenotaph, has been a focus for me but once a year; yet its story, and the memories it evokes, will continue to be a place where I can think upon and express gratitude to those it represents.
“It is not a new bereavement, but one which time has softened. Nature has already decorated their graves with memorials of her love; for over the humblest, she has bidden grasses to grow, poppies to bloom, and the butterfly and the hummingbird to wave their little wings– ancient emblems of immortality.”  Kenora Miner and News, September 16, 1924, p.1.

© Susan (Hillman) Brazeau, Lloydminster, Alberta

Pictures; Cenotaph Photo: By C. Linde, 1924, Lake of the Woods Museum Collection, all other photos from the author’s Family Collection

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