Legion breaks ground for revitalization

By CAROL CHRISTIAN, Connect Weekly

A RCMP rep, and Mayor Melissa Blake, centre with veterans, from left, Bruce Laxton, Jack Avery, Michael Gray and Larry Farrough, Legion Sergeant-at-Arms. Legion President Patrick Duggan in the background.  PHOTO: Carol Christian, Connect Weekly

A RCMP rep, and Mayor Melissa Blake, centre with veterans, from left, Bruce Laxton, Jack Avery, Michael Gray and Larry Farrough, Legion Sergeant-at-Arms. Legion President Patrick Duggan in the background. PHOTO: Carol Christian, Connect Weekly

It was a salute to the future last Friday (November 20) for the Fort McMurray Legion as the long-anticipated ground breaking ceremony for the new cenotaph and memorial garden was finally held.

Considering this same Royal Canadian Legion branch came perilously close to shutting its doors recently, it was with great pride and sense of accomplishment veterans, Legion members and dignitaries were on hand to mark the occasion.

“I think it’s great,” said veteran Jack Avery. He looks forward to seeing the garden flourish and for the historic tank, currently parked in a corner of the parking lot, to be moved to a place of honour in the memorial garden. “It feels good. We did have some problems and we have surmounted those problems, and things are looking really good for the future for the Legion. This is a good legion with good people and it’s just great,” he added.

“This was a tremendous occasion for us, for the Legion, but on a particular personal note, it was a real honour to do the job,” said veteran Bruce Laxton, who along with Avery participated in the ceremony.

“We have looked forward to this for some length of time and to see it come to fruition will be a marvellous thing for the city and the Legion itself.”

Some site service work, such as, crimping off the gas line is the first order of business, says Patrick Duggan, Legion president.

A ceremony will then be held to undedicate the cenotaph, removing the plaques and the flag.

“It’s a small sombre ceremony. What you will see at the very least (this year) is the flag pole come down and getting the actual pathways done, as well. The rebuilding of the cenotaph won’t happen, until spring,” Duggan said. “The gardens will be the next phase.”

Given the Legion was facing closure, as recently as two years ago, Duggan says hosting the ground breaking was a “very happy indescribable feeling,

“It’s hard to find actual words for it. It’s also knowing we still have a lot of work left to do; a lot of our projects. We started this month trying to reach out to some of the homeless vets we are aware of in the community and trying to start getting them direct assistance as well. That’s a real big focus. It’s our mandate. It’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Meanwhile, he points out the Legion is continuing its upgrades.

“It’s an old building. We’ve had a couple of things happen since the renovations were completed.”

For example, a couple of weeks ago a local power outage caused an unexpected power surge when the power was restored. Unfortunately, this surge caused the motor to ‘fry’ the kitchen exhaust.

A new motor was installed and The Armoury Grill was back in operation. With the likelihood of more fundraising in the future, Duggan pointed out the funds for the cenotaph rebuild have been separated into a separate dedicated account.

“That’s strictly for the grounds.”

The fundraising includes plans for the expansion at the back of the building.

Duggan admits the expansion will be a long-term project, which would house St. John Ambulance, giving them a good-size space to serve their needs at a “very competitive long-term lease.

“That will help us maintain what we have, so both non-profit groups can have a symbiotic relationship where we benefit each other. Then, project funds can go further for other initiatives like helping out with the youth groups and the senior groups in town.”

 – Connect Weekly –