The original soldier from the Elmira War Memorial has gathered dust for too long. Now the Royal Canadian Legion in Elmira has a chance to give the restored statue a new home in a glass and wood case in the front entrance of the Woolwich Memorial Centre.
“It fell apart…and what happened was it was decided to restore it and where to put it,” explained the legion’s memorabilia chair Clayton Ash. “World War I vets originally built the arena,” he said of the WMC in a phone interview on Tuesday.
After various instances of vandalism to its fragile marble surface –including continuous damage to the soldier’s rifle, Ash explained—the statue was in rough shape. But the damages were not always deliberately inflicted. Years of exposure also took its toll on the original detail of the statue explained Elmira Legion president Sandra Pember.
The old statue was in a severe state of disrepair, eventually taken down from its original spot in Elmira’s Memorial Park on Arthur Street.
It was removed from the memorial’s original cenotaph and replaced by a new soldier of bronze created by local sculptor Timothy Schmalz in 2010.
The old soldier was kept in storage at the Memorial Centre “until some enterprising individual felt it should be in the memorial complex,” Ash said.
It was restored by the Nelson Stone Centre in Kitchener during a span of two weeks with most of the restoration being done by carver Carl Olsen.
“It was broken into four or five pieces…the rifle was broken into about eight pieces,” said company president Garth Nelson.
The statue had to be completely re-sanded after turning yellow from being washed with bleach in the past and the rifle’s bayonet had to be re-created using a design taken by craftsmen from a historical website. The face and many of the statue’s finer details were reconstructed as well, Nelson explained.
A decision on the date the statue will be moved to its new location is still pending according to WMC representatives but the most pressing concern is the transportation of the fragile piece which will require careful planning according to lead hand Brad Hergott.
“It’s definitely a risk, you don’t want to damage it, it comes with a lot of importance.”
“Our president Sandra Pember, she told me it looks quite good but it sure can’t stand any rough treatment,” Ash said, “or else it’ll collapse in a heap.”