Tucked neatly away beneath the large, stately maple trees on a manicured lawn in downtown Penticton is a small area of solitude and memories.
During the past seven years a local committee of military and civilians have been working to raise Veteran’s Memorial Park to the level they feel it warrants.
“Because it has been consecrated by the Legion padre it very much has a sacred context to it and what makes it sacred is that it is a memorial to the people of Penticton who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Air Force veteran and Royal Canadian Legion life member Ron Bannister, who has co-chaired the committee that has been looking after the project. “It is a lot like a cemetery and we have done a lot of work in there that we really don’t want disturbed.”
Out of respect for those people who are recognized by the cenotaph and other cairns including the two world wars, Korean conflict, police and fire, Bannister feels the park should be treated as sacred by everyone.
He hopes the people who often go and sit in the park to read or just spend a quiet moment will think about those who gave their lives.
His committee co-chair Rob Horkoff who has also been involved with the project since it began in 2005, the Year of the Veteran, agreed.
“The whole park concept is for remembrance of what the past and current veterans and even the current serving Canadian Forces members have done,” he said. “Now in recognition for what they have done and that it has been consecrated this piece of land within the community has now been set aside for generations to come to remember what happened to some of the veterans of Penticton.”
He added as a result of recent international conflicts such as Afghanistan, vets are no longer only voices from the distant past.
Recently a small group of people who have worked on the project that includes the ANAVETS, Royal Canadian Navy, Air Force and the Legion gathered at the site to review what has happened so far.
Recently, walkways have been installed leading to the cairns and cenotaph to protect the area and provide better access.
“This is particularly important for people using wheelchairs and scooters who have mobility issues and have trouble getting across the grass,” said Horkoff.
Work on this phase of the project is nearing completion and committee members are hoping to include lighting, benches, a directory and hand-carved log signs identifying the location at Veteran’s Memorial Park in place by later this fall. Three levels of government as well as private donors have given over $100,000 towards the work.
Included in that money was a large donation from the late Robert Smeding a member of the Dutch resistance in the Second World War.
The committee also singled out the efforts of Lyon Masonry Contractors for its work on the walkways and Okanagan Pattern and Sales for the plaques.