Now that the veteran banners are hanging in Invermere’s downtown core, we have received many comments and questions, so I will provide some answers here.
While preparing my monthly blog called Wartime Wednesdays, in which I tell true stories of Canadians in wartime, I spend many hours searching the internet.
Last year I stumbled across a photograph of a veteran banner hanging in Whitby, Ontario, and was immediately captivated by the idea of doing something similar here.
I called the Whitby Legion in Ontario for advice. The Honour Our Veterans Banner Program started in the Maritimes and has been adopted by several Ontario communities. To my knowledge, it hasn’t travelled farther west than Swift Current, Saskatchewan, which hung banners for the first time in 2016.
Our local Legion Branch 71 agreed to sponsor the program by collecting the funds and paying the bills; and the District of Invermere council agreed that district staff would hang and take down the banners.
Happily, Sandi Jones of Invermere offered to be my partner in this project. Sandi was born here and her father Carl Jones, her uncle Jack Jones, and several other family members served in the Second World War. She was the main point of contact for the sponsors, gathering applications and photographs.
This was far more work than either of us anticipated. Since many of the photos were small and blurry, volunteer graphic designer Jerry McLeod of Invermere spent many hours trying to render them usable, and he did a wonderful job.
We were also helped greatly by Dee Conklin, owner of Palliser Printing. Unable to print the vinyl banners here, she found us a great deal at Anvy Digital Imaging in Calgary, and donated the labour to create the digital files required.
The program was announced twice in the Pioneer – once in December 2016 and again in March 2017. We also set up a Facebook page, and promoted the program through the Legion and through word of mouth.
To qualify for a banner, a veteran had to serve in the First World War, Second World War, or Korean War; and they had to have lived full-time in the Valley at some point in their lives. The families paid $100 for each veteran sponsored, good for a five-year period, and sponsorships were sold on a first-come, first-served basis.
It was lovely to see families honouring more than one relative. For example, the Frater, Feldmann and Koop families of Invermere sponsored banners for both Jim Frater and his wife Kay Frater. Brother and sister Henry Lim and Lillian Lim, whose parents ran a general store here, are also featured.
Several banners were dedicated to veterans who lost their lives. Harold Braathen of Windermere, one of three brothers who served in the Second World War, died when his bomber was shot down, and his name appears on our cenotaph.
The banner for the earliest veteran was sponsored by local man Japhy Hunt in honour of his great-great-grandfather Frederick Young, a local rancher who served in both the Boer War and the First World War with the British Army.
It was heartwarming to see banners hanging for four veterans who still live in in our community: Jim Milne, Joe Fuller, John Stieger, and Frank Sam.
We were also deeply satisfied to honour our local First Nations veterans, 15 of whom volunteered from the local Shuswap and Akisqnuk reserves.
To learn more about all the veterans, you may purchase a printed booklet from the Legion for $2.50, written by local author Dorothy Isted.
The Legion is also collecting names for a waiting list! Since Invermere has only 37 light standards with hanging hardware, we created double-sided banners so that 74 veterans could be featured. This is by no means all the veterans who qualify, but we offered the program on a first-come, first-served basis.
If the program is to expand next year, extra hanging hardware must be added to the light standards. That will be a decision for the District of Invermere.
The banners were hung the first week of October, and they will remain hanging until late November.
At the end of the day, both Sandi Jones and I shed a few tears when we saw the banners hanging, and we have received many compliments on them. We feel that we have indeed honoured our veterans.
For more information, and to see some photographs of the banners, please visit Wartime Wednesdays at www.elinorflorence.com/blog/veteran-banners.