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Piece of city history rescued from the trash heap

Published on

Phil Egan

Roz Green is a curious lady, and Sarnians can be grateful for that curiosity.

The musician was strolling in her central Toronto neighbourhood recently when something caught her eye. Two large, wooden panels were laying curbside, presumably awaiting the trash collector.

Green thought her boyfriend, who was in the course of decorating his apartment, might find them useful. She took them home.

The following day, curious again, Roz googled some of the names on the panels. That led her straight to the War Remembrance Project, which appears on the Sarnia Historical Society’s seven-month-old website.

The massive War Remembrance Project was completed in 2014 following three years of work spearheaded by Sarnia military historians Tom Slater and Randy Evans. The book is the definitive story of Sarnia’s fallen soldiers.

Intrigued, Green contacted Society President Ron RealeSmith.

RealeSmith immediately suspected the panels might be from a Sarnia church or military club and were the Honour Rolls listing the names of local men who served or died in conflict. They appeared to date from the First World War, 1914-18.

Green was amazed by the flood of emails and phone calls that rained down upon her, thanking her for salvaging what appeared to be treasured Sarnia artifacts. One of the emails was from Mayor Mike Bradley.

Green quickly turned the panels over to the historical society and RealeSmith drove them home from Toronto.

Local historian Randy Evans then went to work, trying to determine how something honouring dozens of Sarnia veterans wound up on a Toronto trash heap.

He recognized some of the names — Ackerman, Bell, Benware, Elliot — which are inscribed on the Sarnia cenotaph, and he also knew their stories.

“Churches commissioned honour rolls such as the ones you retrieved to commemorate their congregation’s contributions in the wars,” Evans told Green, adding they provided “solace and comfort” to loved ones left behind.

Evans said more research is needed to discover their origins. But for now, he said he’s pleased the Honour Rolls are in the care of Sarnia’s First Hussars.

They are to be displayed, with the reverence they deserve, in the George Hunter Stirrett Armoury.

A rededication ceremony is planned for later this year.

 

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