Just ahead of Remembrance Day, Elmira’s cenotaph has undergone improvements to go along with the newer centerpiece at the war memorial.
The new landscaping enhances the site where Memorial Avenue meets Arthur Street.
Originally erected nearly 100 years ago with a marble statue, the soldier standing to attention at Memorial was replaced in 2010 with the current bronze figure, now it is the surrounding area that has been upgraded.
For six years, Elmira Legion past-president Kirk Genereux and others campaigned for an update at the site, which previously was home to a rectangular planter, surrounded by grass. Now, there is an elaborate stonescape carpeting the spot, with a new stone monument bearing words repeated every year around Remembrance Day: Lest we forget. Benches were also installed on the north end of the plot, giving visitors a spot to sit and reflect.
Genereux says it is satisfying to know that the project is finally complete.
“It feels fantastic. We at the Legion are very happy. This has been a six-year deal, trying to get this done,” he said. “We have had many meetings with many people, and now it is done. It has a lot of meaning to a lot of families that are in town.”
The project cost around $96,000 with some coming from the Legion, some coming from a Canada 150 grant, and the remainder from the capital projects budget from Woolwich Township.
Ann McArthur, the township’s director of recreation and facilities, says the project was all about respect for Canada and for the veterans who served.
“Everyone wants to give back and leave a lasting legacy,” she said. “It is front and centre, the main gateway when you are coming into Elmira (from the south). In the stone work, they stamped the maple leaf, tying in the Canada 150 celebrations, and reinvigorating the open space. (The grant) was an opportunity to enhance the site.”
One of the main changes at the cenotaph is the terrain. Now, it is more accessible to those that require assistance moving, such as those in wheelchairs. That was Genereux’s idea, and not the original plan.
“I was able to get a copy of the drawings and there were some things that I wanted to change because it didn’t make sense. And everything I suggested, they ended up going with,” he said. “I thought that was great. They wanted to put planters in front of the cenotaph, little curbs and I told them that some of these veterans are getting to be a pretty good age and they could trip over something like that. Then I wanted it right from the sidewalk to the memorial, all concrete, which they did.”
The work was complete just in time for the Legion’s Nov. 6 Remembrance Day ceremonies, and members will be incorporating a rededication ceremony into their usual schedule.
Plans for the ceremonies actually have to change a bit this year.
“We had to have special wreath stands made for Remembrance Day for the 70 or so wreaths we lay, because now we can’t stick them in the grass,” said Genereux. “I designed them, and then we got them constructed and I think they are going to look fantastic.”
The rededication and Remembrance Day ceremonies start at 3 p.m. at the newly updated cenotaph site following the parade from the Legion on First Street