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'It's not just a Legion memorial'

Lifelong Copper Cliff resident Rob Fleming remembers the day the community's cenotaph was first unveiled. It was Nov. 11, 1967, and Fleming was a 13-year-old cadet with the now-defunct First Copper Cliff Highlanders.
Six-year-old Sheldon Racicot, a member of the First Copper Cliff Beavers, places a carnation on the community's newly-relocated cenotaph Nov. 10, as his Beavers leader Sandra Insinna looks on. He placed the carnation in memory of his great-uncles, who fought in the Second World War. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen.
Lifelong Copper Cliff resident Rob Fleming remembers the day the community's cenotaph was first unveiled.

It was Nov. 11, 1967, and Fleming was a 13-year-old cadet with the now-defunct First Copper Cliff Highlanders.

“I just remember that it was extremely disciplined,” Fleming said.

“We took a lot of pride, being members of a cadet corps that was well-known and well-respected. We had some kind of mark that we had to hit because we were representing our veterans.”

On Nov. 10, Fleming attended the rededication ceremony for the same cenotaph, accompanied by the eldest of his four sons, Stephen.

“It's kind of interesting for me,” Fleming said. “Fast-forward that many years later, and you're an adult with adult sons attending the ceremony.”

With the 2008 sale of the Royal Canadian Legion R.L. Beattie Branch 224's building, members decided to move the cenotaph to municipal property next to the Copper Cliff Museum, at the intersection of Balsam and Power Streets.

Plaques in memory of those who died in past conflicts have been installed on a memorial wall next to the cenotaph.

With the exception of a new plaque in memory of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, the plaques were previously displayed on the exterior wall of the Legion building.

About 100 people, including Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault and Ward 2 Coun. Jacques Barbeau, gathered for a traditional Remembrance Day ceremony at the banquet hall above the McLelland Arena Nov. 10.

This was followed by the rededication ceremony across the road, at the cenotaph's new location.

The event also held a lot of significance for Branch 224 member Peter Dow. As the mayor of Copper Cliff back in 1967, his father, Richard, was the person who originally unveiled the community's cenotaph.

Dow said his father, an executive at Inco on top of his duties as the community's long-time mayor, was a friend of the Legion throughout his life. The group made him an honourary lieutenant colonel for his contributions.

“When they made him an honourary lieutenant colonel, I remember his comment,” he said. “He said 'There's always a reason for wanting to be part of a Legion, because they make you a part of a family.'”

Diane Carter, president of Branch 224, said she takes a lot of pride in the cenotaph rededication.

“The cenotaph is a monument of remembrance,” she said. “It is a community memorial. It's not just a Legion memorial. On its site now it's so much more visible in our community of Copper Cliff.”

As the years have gone by, more and more of Branch 224's members have passed away, Carter said. This ever-shrinking membership forced the group to sell its building four years ago.

But that doesn't mean Branch 224 isn't still in existence, she said. Its 49 members still meet in various community halls in Copper Cliff. “As with any Legion branch, it's not the property they own, it's the people that make up the branch.”

Carter, whose late father was a member of Branch 224, joined the Legion many years ago. As a retired Greater Sudbury Police officer, she is granted the status of an ordinary member, just as those who have served in the military are.

But Carter said anyone can join the Legion, and Branch 224 is always looking for new members. “It's hard to recruit new membership,” she said. “A lot of the younger people are not interested.”

Branch 224's treasurer and past-president, Gary Dale, said it took a lot of work, not to mention the navigation of a few setbacks, before the cenotaph rededication finally took place.

The group had originally wanted to hold the ceremony in September, but when city crews were preparing for the structure's move, the discovery of a previously-unknown drainage pipe delayed the work.

The cenotaph was refurbished by Centis Tile, and hauled to its new location thanks to Tracks and Wheels owner Connie Houle, one of Branch 224's members.

“It was a chore, I'll tell you,” Dale laughed. “It took lots of sweating. We just got it up on Thursday. I'm quite pleased with where it's located.”

Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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