DILIGENT RIVER – A two-year-long community effort to recognize the contributions of Simon Gibbons came to fruition with the erection of a memorial inuksuk near one of the churches he was responsible for.
The near-six-foot-high granite monument arrived on the site on the morning of July 10, and was put in place by employees of Nelson Monuments of Sussex, N.B. as a small group of community members looked on.
"It's so worthwhile," said Lorraine Maskill, one of the leading community members behind the project. "We knew right from the beginning when we first got into this, it was really like a mission from God. When you feel that inside... there's that calmness that stays with you and, even though we had all of these hurdles, it doesn't matter."
The monument is located on the property of Maskill and her husband Ron, next door to the St. John Anglican Church, built by Gibbons in 1889. It was the first local church built by Gibbons, an Inuit missionary priest renowned for his historic contributions.
The group had hoped to have the monument in place over a year ago, and have it located in the yard of the church, but was unable to gain the necessary permission. Instead, Maskill said they forged ahead with what she described as a "wonderful journey."
"We've been two years, and over a lot of rocky roads," said Mary Colpitts, another participating community member. "The people of Diligent River have just been wonderful. They are non-denominational when it comes to support."
Along with a $2,000 grant from the Municipality of Cumberland County, the community group has raised thousands of dollars for the cause, and continues to raise money for the interpretive panels that will be put in place next to the monument.
One fundraiser saw the group sell tickets on an Inuit sculpture created by an inmate at Dorchester Penitentiary who had come from Red Bay, N.L., the same community Gibbons hailed from. The inmate saw an article about the project in The Citizen, and wanted to contribute, according to Maskill.
Wanting to thank the inmate, she began searching the Internet for people in Red Bay. While doing so, she came in touch with Parks Canada representative Cindy Gibbons, who happened to be the great-niece of Simon Gibbons. She took an immediate interest in the project, and even visited the area last February. She plans to return for the official unveiling of the inuksuk.
Meanwhile, the project continues. An additional plaque, by Heritage Memorials of Amherst, will be placed near the inuksuk to include the message "Manelauttuk," meaning, "He was here" in Gibbons' native Inuit language. Also, efforts are being pursued to have Gibbons rescued as a "person of national significance" by Heritage Canada.