Tuesday, June 18, 2013

 VETERANS' TRIBUTE AT SELBY PARK - West Bench - Penticton - July 15, 2013

Saturday June 15th dawned sunny and warm, a perfect day for the West Bench inauguration of the Veterans' Memorial at Selby Park.

Sue Gibbons, daughter of navy veteran Bob Jenkins, must have been so proud to see the fruits of her labor finally realized, after conceiving the idea back in 2009 to honour her Dad and the other Second World War vets who made the West Bench settlement their home.

Sue Gibbons with veteran Les Roberts
The design, created by local architects Chris Allen and Cal Meiklejohn,  includes a walking path that winds its way through the charming park and leads you past a large metal table which depicts a plan of all the original lots.  Back when the subdivision was created there was a lottery system and it really was the luck of the draw if you ended up fortunate enough to own one.  Further along the path is a plaque with all the original owners names and lot numbers. 

Veterans Jack Harlock and Les Roberts admire metal table
Les Roberts points to his name on the plaque
The metal sculpture as you begin the walkway, depicts a soldier back from war, holding hands with his family, as he makes the transition to a new life of peace and hope.  Sue Gibbons quoted her father as saying "The Okanagan is God's country, but the West Bench is heaven"  Today, the West Bench is still an amazing place to raise a family, as MC Steve Devito confirmed. Naturally there is a children’s playground that was well used during this event.

There are not many of these brave Canadian Vets around these days and it was touching to see my Dad, along with 11 other Vets, being piped up the walkway, still standing proud and surrounded by families, friends and neighbors. We were all gathered together with a common purpose, to pay tribute to our soldiers and leave a legacy for the residents of the West Bench that will last for years to come.

Veterans on left - Geordie Young, pipe major with Okanagan Caledonia Pipe Band

After the ceremony, which included speakers from the various levels of government, there was a highland dance presentation by Meredith and Ivy Allen and then sandwiches, fruits and sweets were served… a nice touch.  This social became a bit of a mini reunion, as old friends and neighbors swapped stories and caught up on each other’s lives.

Pat Anderson shakes hands with Shirley Moore, long time neighbor
Julie Roberts, Donna Roberts, Pat Anderson, Les Roberts, Shirley Moore
Les Roberts with fellow veteran and friend Ed Cormier
It was a memorable occasion,  thanks to the hard work of many volunteers and I felt privileged to be a part of this very special day.  Kudos to Sue Gibbons for all her efforts over the past 4 years to make her dream a reality.  Dignitaries at the event included MP Dan Albas who represented Steven Blaney, minister of veteran's affairs, Dick Knorr, Michael Brydon (rural area director for the West Bench) and Ed Findlater.
Highland dancers Meredith and Ivy Allen

Congratulations to the original West Bench Veterans, listed below, who attended the ceremony. 

Robert N. Bailey, Edmond Joseph Cormier, Leona C. Gladish, Roy Hamilton, John Stephen Harlock, Douglas Robert Leake, Lyle Thomas Oliver, Leslie Thomas Roberts, Ronald William Rutherglen, Harry Taylor, Kathleen Agnes Thom, John Allen Ward.

Not able to attend the ceremony were Gordon Nelson Parker and James Raymond Stewart.

This article was written by Pat Anderson, daughter of veteran Les Roberts, in collaboration with Julie Roberts, wife of veteran Les Roberts.

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