By Carson Ellis
I had always assumed that the Town of Stettler set aside a small square of land for a war memorial and built a cenotaph at the center. However, over the years, I have come to learn that it is not that simple. Our rather splendid Memorial Park is the essential marrying of two separate operations. Both started by different people, but both with the same purpose. To never forget, and to always respect.
The Stettler Cenotaph was unveiled by Lord and Lady Byng on Friday, Aug. 21, 1925. Lord Bing was the Governor General at the time, and Stettler was just one of the many stops him, and his wife were making across the country. Dignitaries representing Stettler included Mayor Sharpe, and several councillors, as well as Dr. Staples and Mr. E.P Johnson who were representing the Canadian War Veterans’ Association. The unveiling was a grand event and brought out an impressive crowd.
The cenotaph’s original location was on a small island between the two lanes of traffic on Main Street. It sat just south of Prospect (49th ) Ave., roughly in front of what is now the Memorial Hall. However, with Stettler’s growth after the Second World War, an increase in traffic made the cenotaph a bit of a hazard, and so in 1951, it was relocated to the courthouse grounds a few blocks east of its original location. At this time, the names of those lost in the Second World War were added to the original 55 names from the First World War.
By 1955, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #59 began the process of relocating the cenotaph one more time. This time, it was moved to Sharpe Memorial Park, which was located by the Stettler School. The Memorial Park was an area of land dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. W.W Sharpe’s two sons Flt. Lt. Douglas Sharpe, and his brother F/O Harold Sharpe. Harold was killed in action and his brother was declared missing in action. Later, the Sharpes donated the park to the town, and it was rededicated in the early 1950s to those who had lost their lives in both conflicts.
Later the names of those lost during the Korean War were added to the cenotaph.
An article in the Stettler Independent a few years ago quotes Wilda Gibbon as remembering that when she was a child, the students marched from the old school, which sat where the Middle School building roughly is, to the Memorial Park for Remembrance Day ceremonies.
The park is well kept by what I believe is a joint effort between the local legion and the town. Some people, I have been told, even call it Sharpe Memorial Park on occasion.