Hundreds of crosses put personal touch on North Rustico remembrance

·3 min read

Of the 420 crosses that have been placed at the cenotaph in North Rustico, one stands out to Simon Lemay.

"My father-in-law, when he was 18 years old, lived in Rustico ... John Oliver Gallant, he's right there," he said, pointing to a cross in a line with many others.

Military service runs in Lemay's family. He is a 26-year veteran.

He's one of the people who built the crosses by hand in North Rustico.

"I'm trying not to put the emphasis on me, but the emphasis on the whole thing," he said. "It's not about me. It's about these people.

"How touching it is, people coming in. There was a fairly old gentleman here ... and he had his name and his brother's name and it was up there, so right there to me, my job was was done."

The project was organized by the Knights of Columbus in North Rustico along with the town. Each cross represents someone from the area who served in Canada's military.

The goal is to recognize veterans in the community, said James Donnelly, grand knight with the Knights of Columbus.

Travis Kingdon/CBC
Travis Kingdon/CBC

"It's a very powerful visual representation of the people who serve from this area," he said.

"I think that everybody recognizes that when you serve in the Forces, you give a piece of your life away for our country. And people just want recognition. And I think that does bring comfort."

Each cross stands about six inches tall and every one has a person's name on it.

As far back as the Boer War

To find all of those names, the Knights of Columbus searched through records from churches and schools. They visited places where plaques are dedicated to veterans in North Rustico, Rustico and the Hope River areas.

The people they found served from the Boer War to the Korean War. There were peacekeepers as well as people in the reserves or the merchant marine.

"I feel proud about the whole thing," said Lemay.

Lemay hopes it reminds people how fortunate they are.

Travis Kingdon/CBC
Travis Kingdon/CBC

"We are very, very lucky in this country. We have everything that we need and we still seem to be complaining sometime," he said.

Les Standen, deputy mayor of North Rustico, said to see the number of people who served in conflicts speaks to the character of the area.

"It shows what the heart of the people in this area is, when that many people served," he said.

'Brought comfort to a lot of people'

Standen said he often hears stories from the community about those who served, but this has brought those memories back up to the surface.

"People start to talk more," he said. "Just this morning, we were talking about stories of where this gentleman had served and about his relatives that have served. So it really does percolate, you know, enthusiasm and remembrance and pride in people."

Travis Kingdon/CBC
Travis Kingdon/CBC

The town isn't holding a large Remembrance Day ceremony. But Standen said he thinks the display will play an important in the community's remembrance.

"I think it's brought comfort to a lot of people. And we've already seen a number of people day after day since it was put up, coming by, taking pictures," he said.

On Nov. 11, the community is inviting people to come to the cenotaph and walk across the boardwalk, lay a wreath and pay their respects to those represented by the crosses.

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