Portraits of Honour Tour in High River
Article in the High River Times on September 29, 2011 By Robert Massey, Interim Editor
Residents were given a special chance to say thank you on Wednesday, Sept. 21 when a gut-wrenching mural passed through town.
The Portraits of Honour tour stopped at the Recplex in High River and gave locals an opportunity to gaze into the eyes of 157 men and women who gave their lives in Afghanistan.
The oil painting stands 10 feet tall and 40 feet wide and features a painting of each soldier who died, as well as a poppy pedal for each Canadian soldier who has ever died in combat serving the country.
Dignitaries from across the Foothills came to the unveiling at the Recplex as well as the mother of a fallen soldier, Senator Riley school students, a current corporal and a couple of retired corporals. This included former High River resident retired Cpl. Daniel Stegmeier, who served in Afghanistan from February to September 2008.
“This is the best way to do it (remember), it is not just a name anymore,” said Stegmeier “You can put a face on it and look into their eyes, you can see they were a real person.”
Stegmeier served in Afghanistan with a number of the soldiers featured on the special mural and said it was difficult to see them up there.
“I have quite a few friends up there. A few of the guys I was on tour with,” he said. “It brings back a lot of good memories and it brings back a lot of feelings that are going through you at that time. It stirs up a lot of emotions.”
To start the proceedings on the day, 300 students from Senator Riley school took to the streets and marched from their school up Fifth Street and down Twelfth Avenue to the Recplex carrying banners with each soldiers’ face and waving Canadian flags.
As the students marched, they sang. The national anthem poured from their mouths as they proudly waved the Canadian flag and showed off their thanks to the soldiers.
“That was exceptional,” said Mayor Emile Blokland. “When they turned the corner, I saw them walking down the street with the banners and it tore on my heart strings.”
Blokland spoke at the opening, telling residents how much this meant to him as the mayor but also as a Canadian.
“For me this was a very emotional morning,” he said afterwards. “I am so proud of this whole Portraits of Honour tour and the people that are involved with it. It is so important for us as Canadians to recognize the sacrifices of the ones on the wall but also the ongoing efforts of all the men and women who are serving today.”
The tour is a Kin Canada project and came to town thanks to the efforts of the local Kinsmen and Kinettes clubs, who poured many hours into this project.
“It’s hard to put it into words (what it means,)” said tour chairman for High River John Reid. “We knew what it was, we’ve watched video and talked to people. What’s most rewarding is the fact that so many people from town (came.) Fire Department, Legion, Rotary, ask somebody to do something and they will do it.”
Residents had the opportunity to hear from the mother of a lost soldier, whose son is painted onto the mural. Linda Loree, the mother of the late Cpl. Nathan Horburg, read a couple of poems and talked about what this mural means to her.
“The impact of them all together and the work and the commitment that went into that,” said Loree of what struck her about the painting. “To just do it at this particular time in history when the combat mission has ended and tour (the mural) across Canada so people can almost have a ritual of grieving all those losses together rather than each separately…is fairly powerful.”
Retired Cpl. Stegmeier wasn’t sure what to expect when he approached the mural, after all he knew many of the faces up there, but he said this is when the whole experience really came home.
“It really starts to hit home that these people had mothers, sisters, some of them even had kids,” he said. “It is just a great thing. I know it means a lot to the families and to the people who are still serving; that people remember and don’t just (forget.)”
“We think we will get close to that,” he said. “High River has a phenomenal reputation of stepping up to the plate and supporting things and so far we’ve found that.”
Saturday March 5, 2011
Ten years of dinner and dancing
High River Times, Tuesday March 8, 2011 By Robert Massey, Assistant Editor
This past Saturday the Kinsmen Club of High River celebrated its annual dinner and dance to raise funds for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CCFF.) This was the 10th year they have celebrated this event here in High River and the dance’s chairperson believes this could be one of the best ever.
“It may not be record breaking, but it will be close,” said Rob Willard, as he watched residents and fellow Kins pouring into the Memorial Centre.
This year’s event saw around 250 people in attendance; all there to eat some wonderful food, bid on 94 silent auction items, possibly win some great draw prizes and help to raise some funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as well as local charities.
“This is a premier event in High River,” said Willard. “This is our biggest event of the year. It is our biggest fundraiser.”
The president of the Kinsmen Club sees this event in the same light as Willard.
“It’s nice to have everyone out for the first event of the year,” said Garth Brookwell, president. “It’s a great event. We’re hoping for the best again this year.”
The event raised more than $15,000 in funds last year, with half of that going to CCFF and the other half to local Kinsmen projects. At this point, they are not sure where the funds are going as there are a lot of worthwhile projects looking for some help during these hard economic times.
Who gets funds will also depend greatly on how much money was raised this year, and the Kinsmen Club won’t know that until sometime next week. For now though they are just looking at who needs the help the most.
“We always try to benefit the community,” said Brookwell.
The CCFF has been Kin Canada’s national charity since 1964 and in that span of time the group has raised more than $31 million dollars for the group.
“We’re very proud of what we have been able to do,” said Fred Stegmeier, an 11-year member of the Kinsmen Club of High River. “We are just so excited to be involved with this.”
Stegmeier has been with the dinner and dance since its inception and he has seen how it has grown into one of the events people in High River look forward to every single year.
“We are really just thankful for the support,” said Stegmeier. “It is a real cross section of the community which comes out for this.”
The night saw members of various Kinsmen Clubs brush shoulders with members of High River’s Town council, local business owners and residents alike.
“This is a great event,” said Willard. “I look forward to this event every year.”