Small Alberta hamlet receives 1st-ever war memorial in time for Remembrance Day

A small hamlet northwest of Edmonton celebrated Remembrance Day this year with its first-ever war memorial, a fitting occasion on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Riviere Qui Barre, Alta., is approximately 50 kilometres outside of Edmonton. During the war, a couple hundred people lived in the hamlet yet more than 80 men served in the First World War and the Second World War; not all of them made it home alive. Over the years, the hamlet saw its population plummet — the last census in 2016 showed only 15 people living there.

For years, in the absence of a cenotaph, residents marked Remembrance Day with ceremonies at the legion, school or church. But this year, they gathered around a new memorial installed at the local cemetery. It was donated by Roy McLellan.

McLellan was born in Riviere Qui Barre though he now lives in Calgary. Five years ago, he traveled to Normandy where he found his uncle’s cross. He said the sight was so moving and reminded him there was nothing in his hometown honouring those who gave their service to the country.

McLellan bought a stone from Italy, had it engraved in Calgary then installed the monument in the small hamlet.

“The children here in the schools can come and somebody can tell them what it was all about,” he said.

“They can know that this is the history we got our freedom from.”

The name of McLellan’s father, John Alexander McLellan, is engraved in the monument.

“I can tell you, it touches my heart so much — it’s unreal,” he said.

Watch below: Some videos from Global Edmonton’s coverage of Remembrance Day in 2018.

The Granger family helped found Riviere Qui Barre. Three brothers – Dan, Moise and Wilfred – all served in the Second World War. Moise died and was buried overseas and Wilfred was a prisoner of war before he and brother Dan returned home.

“It recognizes these people. They sacrificed their life for us,” Darcy Granger said of his three uncles.

“I think it’s great for people, especially for our family.”

Seeing the names of the three brothers brings a chill to Granger and makes his family history more real.

“Now it’s a place to come and honour them at any time. It doesn’t have to be Remembrance Day,” Granger said.

“This is a big deal.”

During the ceremony, all 83 names on the memorial were read aloud and descendants of the men came forward to lay poppies on the monument.

Wesley Caron and his family were among the dozens gathered on Sunday for the cenotaph’s first Remembrance Day ceremony.

Caron’s father Melvin served in the Second World War while his great-uncle Fred served in the First World War.

“To have my father’s name memorialized is pretty special to me,” he said.

“I’m sure he’d be very proud to have his name memorialized like this.”

Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ coverage of Remembrance Day in 2018.

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