Tears, laughter & remembrance as last veterans’ banners unveiled at Sackville’s civic centre

Volunteer memorial organizer Garth Zwicker preparing to unveil the last 10 veterans’ banners on Saturday

Garth Zwicker struggled to hold back tears as he prepared to unveil the last 10 banners honouring wartime service at the Tantramar Memorial Veterans Civic Centre on Saturday.

“How often I hear the words love, respect, remember, honour, proud, I miss you,” Zwicker said to about 25 family members who attended the ceremony.

“When we unveil these banners,” he added, “emotion might just overcome you a little bit. Go ahead.”

His own voice shook as he talked about driving by his own father’s banner and he paused awkwardly before adding quietly, “Boy, it’s something else.”

8th year

This is the 8th autumn that the vinyl veterans’ banners will adorn Sackville streets until shortly after Remembrance Day on November 11.

Families pay the $230 cost of the banners that are designed by graphic artist Graham Mesheau.

Zwicker said these latest banners bring the total number in Sackville to 148 and since the town has set a limit of 150, this will be the last year for unveiling new ones.

He noted that for the last four years, volunteer Mike Gillespie has also organized veterans’ street banner displays in Dorchester where the number is now up to 44.

Two of the new memorial banners unveiled on Saturday

Zwicker says he originally got the idea for memorial banners when he saw them adorning poles in Saint John and now many communities across Canada display them.

He praised the town for paying the cost of putting the banners up on power poles and taking them down again, but said town managers seem much less enthusiastic about the project than they once were.

This year he says he offered to get the banners ready in late August so they could go up early to avoid conflicts with the schedule for putting up Fall Fair banners, but the town showed no interest.

“It almost feels like we’re an inconvenience,” he says.

“This is a tourism, educational and respect for veterans opportunity for Sackville. I wonder where the town’s enthusiasm for this project has gone.”

Darla MacPherson beside the banner for her grandfather Russell Kaye

Darla MacPherson also struggled with tears as she talked about her grandfather’s military service during World War Two.

Russell Kaye volunteered, she says, because it was hard then to earn enough money to support a growing family.

“He was making a dollar a day in the woods and, going in to join up, he had one child and my mother was on the way, so he said, ‘I’m goin’ because that will be a good pay cheque for my family.'”

MacPherson says her grandfather was despatched to England in 1941 where he served as an engineer helping, among other things, to repair bomb damage until 1946 a full year after the war ended.

“He had to stay longer to do cleanup,” she says, adding that honouring him with a memorial banner is extremely important to her.

“It’s huge. I love my grandad very much. I was 16 when he died and it’s just wonderful to honour him,” she says.

“Sorry I’m getting emotional.”

MacPherson adds that when she first saw the banners going up, she wanted to sponsor one for her grandfather.

“I asked last year if I could do it, but it was too late.

“So, he’s in this year,” she says laughing.

Mike and Lorrie Purdy beside their father Hubert’s memorial banner which is next to one for Norman Rees-Potter on the left and Arthur George Bembridge on the right. Hubert Purdy served in Europe during the war. After settling in Dorchester, he managed the prison farm there. Active in the community, he served for several years on the village council

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3 Responses to Tears, laughter & remembrance as last veterans’ banners unveiled at Sackville’s civic centre

  1. This project is one that has proven to be a wonderful way for families to pay respect and honour to their loved ones. It also allows for an opportunity to tell stories and remember the sacrifices of war and the cost of peace times.

    When our family purchased a banner for our father, it was my understanding that banners would eventually be replaced by others to honour additional people. The banners no longer being used would then be given back to the families.

    It would appear that is no longer the case now, as these will be the last ones placed.

    Maybe a rotation should be considered. I am sure families who have already seen their loved ones honoured would give up their spaces to allow another’s loved one to be recognized for their service.

    As well the creation of a website to hold these images and the persons story would be a great way to allow people from outside the area to view our honoured veterans. It would also be a way to ensure that those who are giving up a banner space have their loved ones banner image and story memorialized on a dedicated website.

  2. Tim Reiffenstein says:

    As the former Mayor says, this has been a wonderful initiative. I’m not from here but have been here long enough to see family resemblances to current residents in these banners.

  3. Ross Thomas says:

    As Shawn infers, it would be really nice to have a story to accompany the banner- some info about service, an interesting story or two etc. Putting several banners and stories on display in Memorial Park in Sackville and the Cenotaph in Dorchester during “Remembrance” season would be a great addition to the lamp post banners, and I suspect would be far more meaningful to the general public than the decaying military hardware that presently adorns the park.

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