Manitoulin District Cenotaph is a committee’s labour of love

The new interlocking block found at the main monument of the Manitoulin District Cenotaph is just one of the many projects undertaken by the committee to keep the cenotaph in top shape.

SPRING BAY—The Manitoulin District Cenotaph, which pays tribute to all of Manitoulin’s war dead, like any structure, requires upkeep as the years march on and it’s thanks to a small committee of people and the hard work of two individuals, in particular, that keep the cenotaph in tip-top shape.

Most recently, the cenotaph saw a facelift to its grounds thanks to generous donations and a grant from the Veterans Affairs Canada’s partnership program. This meant the committee was able to purchase interlocking block to replace the old blocks that were starting to lift and heave at the main memorial, Merchant Marine Memorial and at the Youth in Partnership with Veterans Memorial.

“We’re now in the process of redoing the bathrooms,” said committee member Linda Bowerman, who leads the charge in all of the cenotaph’s endeavours and is helped by husband Ron at every turn. “So far we’ve painted, we’re getting the floor fixed and we are getting new toilets, sinks and tops put in too,” she said, noting the well water has corroded the taps in the cenotaph bathrooms that are open to the public from the Victoria Day long weekend until Thanksgiving. Bond’s Plumbing takes care of the opening and closing down of the washrooms free of charge.

Bruce Witty of Witty’s Monuments is currently working on replacing the main plaque on the Merchant Memorial (the one with the ship on it). “The writing has faded and it’s so small you couldn’t read it,” Ms. Bowerman explained.

In 2016, all of the lettering was redone on the main monument, a huge task, and in 2015 volunteers from the Legion Branch #177 put a new roof on the public restroom.

Ms. Bowerman explained that, thanks to many donations that came pouring in for the interlocking block project, some money was left over which allowed for further upgrades to the cenotaph, such as the restroom project.

“We’ve also been very fortunate that donations have come in through in memoriam funds,” she added.

The Municipality of Central Manitoulin pays for the grass cutting and the cenotaph’s hydro, which is a help, Ms. Bowerman added.

The flags that line the main memorial (that represent Canada and her wartime allies) also have to be replaced every two years, which comes at a cost of about $900.

Each year, the Campbell Horticultural Society donates $100 to the District Cenotaph which Ms. Bowerman turns into 100 red and white geraniums. She buys them early to get a good deal, places them all on a piece of plywood then husband Ron hauls them in and out of their Sheguiandah garage until the flowers become acclimatized and Ms. Bowerman can plant them. She goes every second week to check on the flowers and the donation box which brings in enough funds each season to pay for a caretaker to see the washrooms cleaned once a week.

“It’s important to me because I have an uncle whose name is up there—Norman S. Lockeyer—my mom’s younger brother,” Ms. Bowerman said of the reason behind her devotion. Her uncle was killed in France.

“I got involved at first because I was involved with the women’s memorial,” she continued. This monument, located across from the District Cenotaph in Veterans’ Memorial Gardens, is a tribute to all of the Manitoulin women who served in the First and Second World Wars.

“Through that project I met so many wonderful people, veterans who became friends.”

Ms. Bowerman listed the people on the District Cenotaph committee: Jim Corrigan, Allan Tustian, Jeff Marshall and Donna Foster.

“There are no young people that want to get involved,” she lamented.

“Ron always says, if all the townships even just set aside $50 a year in their budgets for perpetual care of the cenotaph, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about fundraising,” Ms. Bowerman added.

“It’s a work in progress,” she said of the cenotaph.

Donations for the upkeep and maintenance of this important Manitoulin Island complex can be mailed to: Manitoulin District Cenotaph, PO Box 656, Little Current, Ontario P0P 1K0.