Soldier's Tree monument finds its home

The chainsaw sculpted monument, by artist Darren Jones, a tribute to Canada’s military veterans, especially those who served in the Second World War, now has a permanent home. 

The placement work was completed on Aug. 3, in plenty of time for an official dedication ceremony to take place at the Estevan Court House lawn on Sept. 10, since this is where the new Soldiers’ Tree memorial has now been placed, only a few feet from the city’s cenotaph that was placed in honour of military veterans in the late 1920s. 

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The placement process evoked a bit of emotion from Lester Hinzman, who watched the event unfold. It was Hinzman who sparked the idea of a military tribute while engaged in a conversation with fellow-trucker Jones over a year ago. 

When the skills that Jones has with the chainsaw were made evident, and a powerful 100-year-old cottonwood tree became available, courtesy of the Pawson family who once operated a large gardening operation in the valley, the wheels (or we should say, the saws) were set in motion. 

“As a young man, I wanted to join the military. As a grandfather, it’s the last thing I would want to be, in an armed combat and those young people who went over there in the Second World War to fight, they just wanted to come home, and many didn’t,” he said, as he watched volunteers from Skylift Services rig up and then lift the 7,400 pound monument into the air and then place it gently into position on a designated pad, which had been poured and made ready for its arrival. Skylift was just one of a few local contractors who have lent their time and talents for this project which will still carry a $60,000 price tag before the work is completed, said the Legion committee spokesman Robert Rooks, who also attended the site to view the placement. 

A formal dedication ceremony is planned for Sept. 10 and will involve a vintage military plane flyover and several other features, said Jim “Frosty” Forrest, a member of the organizing committee. 

Also on hand were Duane Chipley and Pauline Ziehl-Grimsrud, members of the District 12 board of directors for Affinity Credit Union who presented Rooks and Forrest with a $10,000 cheque from Affinity’s District 12 business group,  to help meet those expenses. 

“Any money we may have left over after all the fundraising we’ve done, will be placed in the hands of a memorial committee through the Estevan Branch No. 60 of the Royal Canadian Legion,” said Rooks, the official spokesman for that group. “That will be put aside for future maintenance or any replacement work that might have to be done in the future,” he said. 

Two benches, also carved by Jones from B.C. cedar wood, were also lifted into place by Skylift before they removed their two large cranes from the road in front of city hall.

“We needed to be careful,” said Skylift’s Dwight Packer. “We’re usually dealing with steel and iron, stuff we know has the core strength. With wood, you can never be sure, especially with something like this,” he said, noting that the crane operators, his son Travis, and Roy Shulda were being particularly cautious with the lift and carry. 

The memorial will include seven iron plates on a chain to depict military campaigns or battles of significance in the Second World War. 

One of the benches pays special tribute to First World War veterans. 

“The Legion will be responsible for future care and custody of this memorial,” said Rooks, just as they are for the nearby cenotaph. 

“The dedication ceremony will include an 11 a.m. parade of  military veterans from the Legion Hall to here,” said Rooks. 

“We haven’t received any negative reaction to this project and plenty of support. We fielded a few questions at the start because a lot of people were curious, but no, we haven’t received any negatives or concerns.” 

The Legion-appointed committee who will be the first group to oversee the newest memorial, include Legion members Rooks, Forrest and Geoff Thiessen along with three other members, Hinzman, Lane Hanson and Marie Calder. 

Rooks said the fundraising has gone well. He said once the community learned details about the tree and the project, “it would usually get them thinking and perhaps reflecting on the sacrifices made. It’s about Canadians and our hearts. Every one in 10 Canadians have a connection to our military and people who have served,” said Rooks. “I know I’ve been looking forward to today, for instance, for quite some time, and I know Lester and the others have been, too. It’s significant.” 

As volunteers drilled in the anchors for the Soldiers’ Tree, committee members Hinzman, Rooks, Forrest, Calder and Thiessen could be seen circling it with smiles of satisfaction, knowing there was just one more step to take to make their project complete. 

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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