The unveiling of a bronze statue of a fallen First World War soldier at the Cochrane Cenotaph park last Thursday was the culmination of a five-year long dream for Todd Puzey.
The Cochrane Legion member first thought about revitalizing the park years ago, and officially kicked off his vision in early 2017 to enhance the annual Remembrance Day gathering space and year-round memorial to lives lost in battle with the help of Legion members and project organizers first vice-president Dave Usherwood and sergeant-at-arms Steve Merritt.
“It was an overwhelming day for sure … the monument is definitely like a baby to me,” laughed Puzey, who has military service in his family tree.
With the $133,000 raised for phase one – which was given a headstart by town council with a $65,000 cheque in February – the team is now awaiting grants to complete phase two, landscaping, for July 1, 2018.
“The committee is very much in sync to move ahead with phase two (in the new year),” said Usherwood, who was filled with pride at last week’s ceremony and said the entire event “exceeded his expectations.”
A formal ceremony on a sunny afternoon on Oct. 26 drew a crowd of around 250 people, who were joined by local and provincial dignitaries, military and cadet personnel, Legion organizers and supporters and Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell.
“I was deeply honoured … and nervous,” laughed Mayor Jeff Genung, who found it both exhilarating and slightly nerve-racking to step into his blue suit on his fourth day as town mayor and act as host to the Queen’s representative.
Genung said Mitchell “made it so easy,” marveling at the professionalism and experience exuded by the monarchical representative and her husband, Doug Mitchell – retired CFL football player, businessman and community advocate – who spent much of his time in Cochrane last Thursday accompanied by Danielle Genung, the mayor’s spouse and swim club head coach.
Phase two of the Cenotaph project includes landscaping, walkways, benches and fencettes to make the park more open and inviting to the general public and is budgeted for $85,000. Usherwood said the Legion’s application for a $25,000 provincial grant has been confirmed and their federal grant application for $50,000 is in the works.
The bronze statue was designed and created by Don Begg and Shirley Stephens-Begg of Studio West Bronze Foundry of Cochrane. Local company OnGrowing Works handled the construction.