Remembrance Day service a ‘community effort’

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This article was published 05/11/2021 (323 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A monument in the St. Norbert cemetery that for years stood unknown to most residents inspired a decades-long, community-run celebration.

In 2008, Art Bloomfield, a longtime St. Norbert resident, was walking his grandson to school when he took a closer look at an overgrown cenotaph in the cemetery. The monument was a forgotten homage to 13 men who fought and died in the First World War and were connected to the St. Norbert community.

Soon after, Bloomfield and his wife, Wendy, made it their mission to ensure the cenotaph and fallen men were honoured each year on Remembrance Day.

Photo by Kelsey James (From left to right) Chris Szun, band and choir teacher Michelle Archibald, Alex Rogers and Alex Lapointe participated in this year’s virtual St. Norbert Remembrance Day ceremony.

“We were just going to do it as a family, but we ended up having about 50 people show up the first year,” Bloomfield told The Sou’wester.

Now in its 11th year, the annual ceremony attracts up to 500 attendees and has the support of community volunteers, business sponsors and politicians.

“At about the third year, we contacted the school to see if they would like to participate in some way, and they’ve been a big part of it ever since,” Wendy said.

Each year, Collège St. Norbert Collegiate students lay the wreaths and recite the names of the fallen soldiers listed on the cenotaph. The choir also sings, and the band performs.

Principal Chris Szun has watched the service grow since he joined the high school eight years ago.

“It amazes me every year to see the enthusiasm from our kids to take part in that community celebration,” Szun said.

Alex Rogers, a Grade 12 student at Collège St. Norbert Collegiate, has sang in the choir and laid wreaths to honour Métis veterans since his grade nine year.

“It’s nice being able to acknowledge the Metis veterans,” Rogers said. “This is their homeland, so it’s important to make that connection because they’re often overlooked in their contributions. It’s important to bring the focus back on them and thank them for what they’ve done.”

Alex Lapointe, another Grade 12 student, plays with the Collège St. Norbert Collegiate brass band at the annual Remembrance Day ceremony.

“The right thing to do is to remember our veterans and those who’ve fought and those who have died for the freedom of others,” Lapointe, who has also been participating since grade nine, said.

Planning for the Remembrance Day ceremony begins in September, the Bloomfields said. This includes laying out the format and contacting all levels of military, government and service organizations.

Since the ceremony went virtual, the couple has hired a videographer to shoot and edit the service. In previous years, when the event was still in-person, the couple also sources a stage and sound system.

Since schools currently can’t gather for a Remembrance Day assembly, the Bloomfields have made the video available to schools in Manitoba for Nov. 10 so they can watch it in classrooms or virtually.

“The feedback we get from most people who attend is that the most meaningful part is listening to the kids recite the names and sharing who they who,” Wendy said.

“It’s amazing to think it started out as the idea of not forgetting the men to having almost 1,200 views on last year’s video.”

The St. Norbert virtual Remembrance Day ceremony will air at 10:45 a.m. on Nov. 11 and can be watched at www.stnorbertremembranceday.ca. Those interested in visiting the cenotaph in the St. Norbert Cemetery can pin their poppies on the wreath beginning the morning of Nov. 11 through to Nov. 13.

Kelsey James

Kelsey James
Community Journalist

Kelsey James is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. She graduated from Red River College’s creative communications program in 2018 as a journalism major and holds a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric, writing and communications from the University of Winnipeg. A lifelong Winnipegger who grew up in southwest Winnipeg, Kelsey is thrilled to be covering the neighbourhoods she still calls “home.”

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