Stettler

Organizers with Stettler Community Builders are thrilled with how the project is moving forward

Initiative to honour Stettler citizens who were influential in the town’s history

Organizers with Stettler Community Builders are thrilled with how the special project is moving forward.

Plans are set to see two monuments – complete with pictures and the basics of each person’s story – set to be unveiled this summer.

Awhile back, Malcolm Fischer said he noticed that some of the local community builders of Stettler, such as Clark Burlingham and Fred Colley, were being forgotten.

To that end, Burlingham and Colley will be the first citizens to be commemorated on the specially-designed monuments.

Fischer, who also serves on Town council, said he had been thinking about the idea for awhile, and one day his friend Larry Dawson mentioned Burlingham and his very significant contributions to the town.

That was the spark that ‘crystalized’ the concept.

Currently, Stettler Community Builders is run via the Town and has also been granted funding for the two monuments so far.

“Carson (Ellis) and I are going to get together with all of the literature and photos that we can muster on these two men – Clark Burlingham and Fred Colley,” said Fischer. “And rather than it being an ‘award’ kind of focus, it’s more of a recognition of a person’s contributions,” he explained.

In the meantime, Fischer said Wayne Tebbe was the one who came up with the prototype for the actual monuments. “He and Dave (McCourt) worked on it together.”

Fischer pointed out that Tebbe is donating one of the monuments as well.

In the meantime, the plan was to put the monuments near places that were directly relevant to the lives of those being honoured.

“We collectively felt that the pathway right across from the police station will be the best. It’s high traffic – a commonly-used walking trail and the recreation centre is right across from it,” he said. “So the first two will go along there.”

Fischer said he hopes that when people see these monuments, that it will spur them on to consider others who might be eligible for a monument down the road.

To date, the committee has about 20 names that have been submitted to mull over.

As for Burlingham, Fischer said he was a great motivator during his time in Stettler.

He has also been described as one of the first of his kind in Alberta and in Canada (as a recreation director), and a pioneer in so many ways.

“Not only was he employed by the Town, but we think he was the first municipally-hired recreation director in Canada,” said Fischer.

He was also a tremendous advocate for Stettler.

For his part, Fred Colley was the original president of the Ag Society, said Fischer.

Also, back in the early 1900s, Colley started Acorn Lumber.

“In 1904, he heard that the railway was going east from Lacombe. When it came to Stettler, there he was with four cartloads of B.C. lumber. He built a couple of hotels, the first church, various houses that are still around. You talk about a builder!”

Another potential candidate for a monument is Judge Billy Gray, who was also involved in several aspects of the community.

“These people did so much. These days, we take instant communication for granted, but they had none of that. They got things done, and they got the people around them to help get these things done. Their enthusiasm must have been tremendous.

As mentioned, many were also advocates for Stettler as well.

People would often know from Clark Burlingham, who would go to various towns to coach ball tournaments, plenty about Stettler. And he wasn’t even a native of the town, having arrived in Stettler from Saskatchewan in 1954, said Fischer.

“I played on a couple of teams that Burly put together for a summer tournament, and it was never about him, it was about us – we were going to play as well as we could, because we were playing for him,” said Fischer, noting the man’s charisma and also his outward focus on others and helping them reach their potential.

“We want to make sure that their legacies are not forgotten.”