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Massive ship anchor given to city by water-loving family

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Tom St. Amand

When the second Blue Water Bridge was completed in July of 1997 local residents were anxious to see the new addition to their famed riverfront.

And they weren’t disappointed.

During the grand opening an estimated 75,000 people walked across the $100-million bridge built just south of the original span.

During all that excitement another item was added to waterfront with little fanfare. Even today, many Sarnians are oblivious to its presence — even though it weighs more than a ton and sits in plain view in Centennial Park.

A plaque indicates the big, grey anchor was donated to the city 20 years ago by Laird and Doris Nixon and family, and dedicated to a very special group of people.

Before being moved to the park the anchor occupied the front lawn of the Nixon home at 1672 Lakeshore Rd. It was near the road and became a landmark and curiosity for passersby.

That Laird Nixon wanted an anchor on his property was no surprise.

“My dad loved collecting all sorts of antiques, especially furniture,” son Grant Nixon recalled. “When he saw an opportunity to obtain an anchor he did so—and he wanted people to enjoy it.”

Laird Nixon discovered the stockless metal anchor in the early 1970s in the Lampel and Zierler junkyard on south Christina Street, on land today known as Rainbow Park.

He paid $200, and Grant remembers, “Mother wasn’t too pleased about the cost.”

Laird Nixon passed away in 2003, but Doris and her children believe the anchor came from a “saltie,” one of the ocean-going vessels that occasionally haul cargo on the Great Lakes.

No one in the Nixon family knows the name of the ship that had visited Sarnia, but they do remember the anchor’s imposing weight and the day a tow truck deposited it on the front lawn.

A fixture on Lakeshore for many years, the anchor reflected the Nixon family’s own interests in kayaking and canoeing and sailing on Lake Huron.

Doris and Laird donated the artifact when they moved to an apartment in 1997. Sarnia gladly accepted the offer, picked it up with a front-end loader, painted it grey and chose to display it at Centennial Park.

For two decades now the anchor has occupied the same spot overlooking Sarnia Bay, just west of where the MacLean Centre once stood.

As they were a family of water enthusiasts, and because Laird had a brother who served in the navy, the Nixon family dedicated their anchor “in memory of the men and women who served their country in the navy and merchant navy.”

Laird Nixon’s $200 investment remains a small price to pay for an ongoing tribute to their service.

 

Tom St. Amand is a retired high school teacher in Sarnia

 

 

 

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