Remembrance Day is the time when we look at the past to make sure that we don’t forget those who lost their lives in wars, revive the memories of the fallen and pay due respect to them.
Cenotaphs constitute an indispensable of the commemoration events on Remembrance Day as they help communities to pay tribute to the sacrifices made by both those who lost their lives and their survivors.
This year the Stettler cenotaph celebrates 85 years, officially unveiled on Aug. 21, 1925 by Governor General Lord and Lady Byng.
“Great expectation gripped the community for weeks before the Byngs arrived as everybody, including children and a body of war veterans headed by Captain Matheson were there. Mayor and Mrs. Sharpe, councillors McElherne, Dennis, Asmussen, and Wilkinson and Dr. Clive Staples and E.P. Johnson representing the Stettler Canadian War Veterans’ Association made up the official welcoming party,” wrote the Stettler Independent in the days leading to the official inauguration.
The war memorial was located first on Main Street just south of 49 Avenue on a small island park opposite the Memorial Hall (now Word of Life Centre).
“The cenotaph provides a place for families and friends of those who died in war to remember them – to place flowers and wreaths, just as people would do for their loved ones at their graveside at a cemetery,” said Legion president Kevin Milner.
“Many of those named on this cenotaph have lots of descendents who still live in this area and take time to visit them in the park.”
Now located beside William E. Hay Composite High School, the cenotaph and Memorial Park will get a facelift as the Legion and Clearview School Division continue to work on a plan to enhance and beautify the park and keep it clean of litter.
“When I was going to school in the 1930s, we went to school on Nov. 11 and we marched to the cenotaph for the ceremonies,” said Wilda Gibbons, curator of Stettler Town and Country Museum, noting that the school was located on the current site of Stettler Middle School.
Here is some further history of the cenotaph as reported in a story in the Independent in 1985:
With increasing traffic following World War 2 (1939 to 1945), the cenotaph became a traffic hazard so it was moved to the court house on the east side of town.
The cenotaph was then moved to its current site at Sharpe Memorial Park (by William E. Hay High School), when then-Mayor Whip Sharpe and his wife Emma donated the land for the park in memory of their sons Douglas and Harold, who lost their lives while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Forces in World War 2.
The name was changed to Memorial Park at the request of the Legion when the cenotaph was moved there.