DILIGENT RIVER – For the first time, a Remembrance Day ceremony will take place in Diligent River this year, although it won’t be on Nov. 11.
The community event, which will see the official unveiling of its new war memorial monument, will take place on the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 4, a week early due to other commitments of participants such as legion padre Rev. Greg Doyle on Remembrance Day.
The monument itself has been in place for several months, but the flagpole was only recently installed, and the upcoming ceremony will mark the flag raising and first public event at the site.
“The war memorial monument here in Diligent River is now a community landmark, and a symbol of community pride,” said Gale Boland, who has spearheaded the project over the past two years. “There have been a lot of people stop by Arlene’s gallery and pull in, because it’s so accessible for seniors. They can drive right in and read the names on the monument.”
The project started two years ago when Boland was researching Diligent River Roots, her book on local history. She had observed a framed certificate on the wall of the Diligent River United Baptist Church that identified the community’s Second World War veterans, and started playing with the idea of a monument listing all of the community’s veterans.
She soon discovered that the federal department of veterans’ affairs had a program available to assist communities in erecting cenotaphs and war memorial monuments, so she started the ball rolling for the paperwork, and other community members got involved in helping.
Local artist Arlene Collins prepared sketches of how the finished product would appear, while the Baptist church executive agreed to allow the monument to be placed on church property. The funding applications were made through the local community hall association.
Corlas and Arlene Collins donated and transported gravel for the base for the monument, while Robert Graham volunteered his time and equipment to prepare the ground and the base. Charles Perry donated topsoil for landscaping, and Rod Boland helped with all phases, including planting grass seed and trying to keep that grass alive by watering through the dry summer months. Sherry Stronge from Heritage Memorials in Amherst also provided vital support throughout the process.
Meanwhile, funding assistance came not only from Veterans’ Affairs, but also from the Municipality of Cumberland County, and a donation from former area resident Gordon Coates. Family members of the veterans purchased a separate stone to recognize this funding assistance.
Open to veterans from the communities of Diligent River, Ramshead River, Yorke Settlement and Wharton, the monument recognizes 61 local veterans – 17 from the First World War, 38 from the Second World War, five from the Korea War, and one peacekeeper. The community’s two surviving Second World War veterans – Ron Colpitts and Clayton Graham – are expected to be in attendance at the Nov. 4 ceremony.
“Ron Colpitts will raise the flag, if the weather co-operates, and that will be a special occasion for him,” said Boland. “It’s said that Clayton Graham’s brother Harris, who was one of the church executive members to sign the document agreeing to have the monument placed there, and was also a Second World War veteran, didn’t live to see the day come.”
In addition to the monument, Boland is putting together a photo album of as many of the local veterans as she can, which will be placed for public viewing at Arlene Collins’ nearby art studio.
The Nov. 4 event will begin with a church service at 2 p.m., followed by a flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremony outside at the monument, weather permitting.
“It’s just so amazing and so nice (to see it finished),” said Boland. “It will be a thrill to see that flag raised, I’m sure.”