The first two monuments spearheaded by Stettler Community Builders have been officially unveiled.
The brief program was held Sept. 24 at the site, which is right across from the police station.
Prior to the inception of Stettler Community Builders, 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 are the first citizens to be commemorated on the specially-designed monuments complete with information and images. The plan is to add two more such monuments each year continuing along the pathway.
“This started with an idea in a room with people gathered around, and a person with a passion for the community,” said Mayor Sean Nolls. “That grew into a group with a passion for the community.
“Part of our history, which maybe we don’t always talk about or realize, is out there. People like Carl Stettler are always obvious, but there are certain people who do things within the community…that we don’t necessarily talk about or know the history of.
“So it took a group of really dedicated individuals – and it grew into something really quite awesome! I’m glad we are here today to see this come to fruition with these stories that maybe we haven’t heard before,” he said.
Committee member Malcolm Fischer agreed that there was and is certainly a need to launch the project.
“Many folks who got things in Stettler started, who pioneered things in various ways, were being forgotten,” he explained.
“Every fire needs a spark to start, and every train needs an engine to nudge it forward, and one day, my neighbour Larry Dawson came across the street and voiced his frustration that Clark Burlingham and his many achievements were being forgotten.
“Clark was a champion and an ambassador for Stettler,” he added, pointing to Burlingham’s extensive work in recreation in the town as well. “Spunky doesn’t even begin to describe Clark. So how can such a mover and shaker be disappearing from the community’s memory?
“So that chat with Larry made me realize it wasn’t just me that was concerned.”
The Town was supportive of that plan, a committee was formed, and over the months plans were laid down as to what the actual monuments would look like and where they would be installed.
Burlingham’s son Garth was also in attendance at the event, and spoke of both his father’s extensive military history and his tremendous support of the community during the years the family lived in Stettler – from 1954 to 1968.
“Thank you to the committee for doing this – my brother and I will be eternally grateful,” said Garth. “He used everyday as a transaction for making the world a slightly better place with every interaction he had with anybody. My father was also essentially a teacher, and called himself a teacher throughout his whole life,” he added.
“My brother and I still hold him dearly in our hearts.”
Meanwhile, as Fischer noted, this is really just the start of this project.
“This is the culmination of at least a couple of years of work, and this project has finally reached its conclusion. But though it is – in one sense – the end, it really is only the beginning.
“As word got out that Stettler Community Builders was actually underway, many deserving names quickly surfaced,” he said, adding that Fred Colley’s name was at the forefront as well.
“What a visionary Fred was – I would have loved to have known him. He was running a lumber yard in North Dakota and learned that a new railroad branch was coming east from a place called Lacombe to a place called Stettler. The first train that arrived here had four carloads of B.C. lumber on it – and Mr. Colley’s Acorn Lumber business was off and running. Talk about a builder – many builders in Stettler and area were his doing, and many still stand,” he said.
Meanwhile, the local committee – now run through the Town – has about 20 potential names on a list for monuments.
And, as mentioned, they are hoping to install two monuments each year going forward.
If anyone would like more information about Stettler Community Builders, they can call the Town office.
“It’s not an award ‘per se’, but a recognition of community building. And as Greg Switenky noted, these are often untold stories in danger of drifting off into anonymity,” noted Fischer.
“Let us continue to add to the list the names of those builders well worth remembering.”