It’s a conflict often described as Canada’s “forgotten war,” but this community’s efforts in the Korean Conflict will never be forgotten again thanks to 17-year-old Alex Theaker.
Theaker, who will begin Grade 12 at Aurora High School this fall, is the winner of a design contest held by the Town, in conjunction with the Royal Canadian Legion and the Aurora Museum & Archives, to find a suitable memorial for Korean veterans within the Peace Park at Yonge and Murray Drive.
The Peace Park, which is dominated by a tall, illuminated column paying tribute to the men from Aurora, King Township, and Whitchurch-Stouffville who fell during the First World War, contains monuments to men and women who lost their lives in the Second World War (The Altar of Sacrifice) and the Afghanistan Conflict (a decommissioned light armoured vehicle).
A commemoration of the Korean War has long been a missing piece of the puzzle.
The Town launched a design contest to rectify that oversight this past May following a delegation to Council from local historian Bill Newman, who, backed by the Legion and Museum, made the case for an additional monument.
The subsequent contest was open to all residents from Aurora, King, and Whitchurch-Stouffville with few parameters. Potential entries, they said, could be anything from a simple pencil drawing to something much more elaborate.
Theaker fell into the latter camp, harnessing his 3D modelling skills to create a simple but striking stone cube designed to be placed atop a pedestal at least one metre tall.
“I had developed skills of 3D modelling over the summer and thought I would put my skills to the test and see how well I could do,” says Alex, noting he began to delve deeper into the technology as a Grade 9 student. “I thought this was the perfect moment for me to test my abilities. I looked at other memorials that are currently at the Peace Park and looked at other memorials around here and I started playing around with different designs.”
The winning entry features the Canadian flag and a representation of the Korean Peninsula, the dates of the conflict and the three communities, anchored by the evocative motto, “Lest we forget.”
“I really designed it to be modified by the Town as they see fit,” Alex explains, noting that although he did not design the memorial for a specific place within the Peace Park, he hopes it can be located either to the left or right of the dominant cenotaph tower.
“When people see this new memorial, my hope is they go and think about if there are people in their lives, their families, who were involved and to just read up about the Korean War and the sacrifices of not only Canadians, but Americans, Koreans and NATO in general. I think it is very important as we never talk about the Korean War in school and kind of stop in the Second World War. I think it is important for people to think about not only the war in general but the sacrifices local people made for it.”
Today, memorials to Canada’s contributions to the Korean War can be found at monuments from coast to coast, but Aurora is one of the exceptions. Although no Aurorans are known to have lost their lives in the conflict, Mr. Newman said it is “timely and fitting” to recognize what they did to fend off “yet another threat to the freedom and right of self-determination of the world’s peoples.
“We are requesting…the involvement of the Town and its staff to design and locate a fitting memorial at the Peace Park to our Korean War veterans,” he said. “We understand the funding for the memorial may be obtainable through Veterans Affairs Canada’s commemorative partnership program for a community war memorial funding. Your favourable consideration of this request would provide overdue recognition to those from our community and surrounding area who served in what is being termed as ‘Canada’s forgotten war.’”
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran