Massive mural in Melfort, Sask. honours veterans
A mural of poppies was painted on the Legion building in Melfort to mark the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the poppy as a symbol of Remembrance Day in Canada.
"We want it to be a constant reminder of the pride people should take in the fact that veterans of Melfort and the community sacrificed so much for them,” said the President of the Royal Canadian Legion Melfort Branch Jim Graham.
Northern Lights Gallery owner Sandra Dancy spearheaded the project and helped locate an artist to paint the larger-than-life Legion mural. The painting will be part of a back alley artist tour in the summer.
“You can see it from the highway,” said Dancy. “It’s just a year-round reminder to be thankful for your freedom and be thankful we live in a peaceful country.”
“It was such an honour,” said Carla Tyacke, the local artist chosen to design and paint the 14 foot by 24-foot wide tribute.
She said she wanted the colours of the poppies to “pop” and draw people to the building. The Melfort Home Hardware donated the paint for the project and Tyacke spent about 35 hours in July covering the outdoor wall with a prairie version of Flanders Fields.
Remembrance Day and the Legion are evolving according to Graham, as the Remembrance Day service at the high school for the community have gone virtual for the second year in a row due to the pandemic. Only a small group of Legion members will participate in a service at the cenotaph in the Memorial Garden in the city’s downtown on Nov.11.
To keep the message of Remembrance Day in the public eye, the Melfort Legion also put veterans’ photos on banners and placed them on light posts that line a busy street and people have asked for more, said Graham.
The City of Melfort also renamed Saskatchewan Avenue to Veteran’s Way.
Sales of lawn signs that say "We Will Remember Them" are also up this year.
And after years of declining members, he said the Melfort Legion’s membership has increased to 188, as younger people are taking part in Legion activities and helping with fundraisers.
Inside the Legion clubhouse there are about 850 veteran photos on the wall.
“And out of the greater Melfort community, that’s probably about 10,000 people. That’s almost ten percent who’ve actually had some service to the nation so it’s a big number,” Graham said.
Graham said Canadian soldiers in the Balkans and Afghanistan and the Highway of Heroes in Ontario helped keep veterans in the public eye.
“And not just the ones that lost their lives or were injured but people who took those years out of their lives to serve,” said Graham.
Madame Anna Guérin from France began the poppy tradition 100 years ago on Armistice Day. She was inspired by John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields” poem to distribute the Poppy on to raise money for veterans' needs and to remember those who died during the First World War.