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Putting a face and a name to history

Rae Ann Bauman with the Elmira banner commemorating her grandfather. [Damon MacLean]

If you haven’t already done so, the quickly approaching Remembrance Day might prompt you to take in the history lesson on display in downtown Elmira. Hanging from the utility poles there are 26 banners commemorating those from the community who served their country.

Now in its fourth year, the program to honour veterans has been well received, leading it to be expanded, though there’s still a waiting list of names to join the ranks. It’s been a joint effort of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Branch 469, Woolwich Township and the Elmira Business Improvement Area (BIA).

“We’re looking to eventually down the road expand and have more banners, in conjunction with the township and the BIA, because they are the ones that provide the brackets. So we’re hoping that down the road we’ll have more than what we currently have,” said Rae Ann Bauman a Legion member and township employee.

Bauman is currently honouring her grandfather, Arthur Joseph Genereux, who is depicted on a banner outside of the Thur Real Estate office.

“My grandfather served in World War Two. He was a flight sergeant on salvage and repair, so he was involved in any downed plane, going in salvaging what they can and bringing it back to use on any aircraft,” she said of his military legacy.

Kitty-corner to Generaux in front of the Central Tavern is Don McAllister.  “He is a longtime Legion member who has passed away [in 2018]. He was a big supporter of this program as well. His family was actually surprised with this one,” she said of the addition to the ranks.

Many of those featured in the project were members of Elmira’s Legion or have relatives that are currently members, said Bauman. There have been outside requests that have resulted in new members for the local organization.

“We’ve had interest from non-Legion members getting banners up. That has actually kind of got them to join, because they realized what the organization does as a whole for their veterans, and they want to be a part of that.”

The motto of the program is fairly simple, she said. “A veteran is a veteran is a veteran.”

“It can be anyone that has served in any form of military and it also doesn’t have to be somebody that’s deceased. It could be an active military member, but they do not have to be from Elmira. It can be someone that lives here that had somebody that served somewhere else within the country. We just want to honour any veteran.”

When the program began, it caught the attention of neighbouring Wellesley Township, where residents were inspired to start a similar initiative. The committee in Elmira helped start a similar program in Linwood.

“We helped Linwood expand their program, because they don’t have a Legion, so they have taken the Elmira Legion as their own – we help them get that project off the ground. They did that through fundraising efforts with a bunch of local groups and had support from their council and [Waterloo North] Hydro, because all of their banners are on their hydro poles as well.”

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