Veteran memorial banner initiator remembered in St. George

Colourful banners are flying in towns across the country this week to remember heroic people from the past. The banners have a black and white wartime photo and the name and date that a particular veteran served. 

It's become a popular way to honour war veterans each year leading into Remembrance Day. 

The town of St. George, N.B., has more than 200 banners attached to street poles this year, but there's a new addition hanging outside the Royal Canadian Legion in the town to recognize Robert Melanson, who initiated the memorial banners.  

"There wouldn't be no banners in Canada if it hadn't been for that man," said Jim Hanley, president of the legion in St. George.

Submitted/Brenda Melanson

Melanson died of cancer in January. He was a member of the legion and a community leader.

According to Hanley, the idea to hang wartime banners along the town's street poles came from Melanson while he was on vacation with his wife, Brenda, in New Holland, Pennsylvania. That's where he noticed similar banners.

Melanson took the idea home to St. George in 2013 and council approved his plan. Twenty two banners were raised that year.

Acting mayor Faith Avery said the town was eager to help with the project to honour veterans from the area.

"We have a lot of veterans in the area, or, have come from the area," Avery said. "It's a great way to bring it back to the children, so that when they're walking down the street they can say 'mom, who's this?'"

And, St. George wasn't the only town to think it was a good idea. 

Submitted/Brenda Melanson

After word spread about the memorial banners, Melanson's phone started to ring from people in other towns and cities across the country, wondering how to get started on their own banners. 

"We had calls from B.C., Northwest Territories, all out west, and even Newfoundland," Hanley said. 

According to Avery, Melanson wasn't surprised that other parts of the country wanted to get involved with their own banners, but how fast it spread shocked him.

"We had ours up the first year, and then the next year there was so many communities after that that were doing it," Avery said. 

As for St. George's latest banner to remember Melanson, Avery said it's a fitting way to remember a person who gave back to the community. 

"We'll never forget him. It's probably out of all the banners, it's the one that tugs at me most."