A Garden Is Born
Comber Legion Branch 241
Comber Veterans Memorial Gardens
Dedicated 23 September 2000
In Memory of Kenneth McFadden – Chairman of the Memorial Gardens Committee Kenneth Brian McFadden died at the age of 69, on Sunday August 27. Kenneth was instrumental in the creation of the Comber Veterans Memorial Gardens. This project began as a vision from Ken McFadden. Ken was a veteran of the Korean War. He served our country proudly, returned to work in the City of Windsor, and then retired in the quiet Village of Comber. Kenneth had attended many memorial services on November 11th, at The Cenotaph, located on Municipal property, adjacent to the Doctor’s Office. After the service, a group of veterans, honoured guests and visitors, would proceed down the street, passed a vacant lot adjacent to the Legion Hall, for fellowship and refreshments. While walking passed this vacant lot, his vision began to evolve.
Why don’t we – the Comber Branch 241 – purchase this vacant lot and move our cenotaph next to our hall?
Although a wonderful idea, it was not practical: Branch 241 had a mortgage to repay for recent renovations, and the small Legion Branch could not afford to purchase the lot on their own. Downhearted, but not ready to give up, Ken turned his sights on the newly amalgamated, Town of Lakeshore. After some lobbying with Mayor Pat Hayes, he went to a Council Meeting in November 1999. It was definitely going to be hard work, to get this group of political people, to see the value of Ken’s dream. Ken pleaded his case at the Council Meeting, pointing out that Comber needed a park, a memorial park; for people to pay tribute to those who died for Canada, and a place for flowers, park benches, and most of all, a new home for our Cenotaph, adjacent to the Legion Hall. After much discussions, and the support of Mayor Pat Hayes, Council saw the benefits and it was agreed that the Town of Lakeshore would purchase the lot and deem Branch 241, responsible for the development and upkeep of the New Comber Veterans Memorial Gardens.
A committee was formed with Ken as Chairman, Ross Lonsbarry as Co-Chairman, Dan Yurke as Secretary, Bruce Dietrich, Norma Sova, Dorothy Dalgleish, Tom Dalgleish, Marlene Taylor, Lyle Morris, Irene Morris, Remi Gagnier, Craig Ainslie, Jay Tremblay, all volunteered for the committee. The committee would meet every Thursday as the Town gave us a deadline of September 2000.
First, a form letter was written requesting donations, and it was decided that a donor board would be created and permanently displayed. Arrangements were made to get the lot cleared and the grounds prepared to receive the cenotaph. The group worked on a definite plan of where the monument would be placed and the landscaping surrounding it. Others worked on finding and locating existing utilities and the changes required.
The first, very generous donation received, was from the Lakeshore Station 5 Firefighters – our own local Firefighters. This gave the group encouragement to proceed – and the earth began to move! Remi Gagnier and his workers began clearing and levelling the lot – with help from the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, as to which trees would prosper. As the weekly meetings declared what donation money was available, more tasks were completed.
The first major job was the relocating of the cenotaph. Precariously, it was moved down the street, by Payloader, to its new home. Flagpoles and sidewalks were the next tasks at hand. The Women’s Institute Flagpole – donated in the early 1920’s was dismantled, refurbished and relocated to the south-east corner of the lot. All of this work was accomplished by committee member, Remi Gagnier and his helpful crew of legion members. Once again, Mother Nature would intervene with rain and inappropriate working weather, but this didn’t break the spirit of the committee members. In July, sprinkler systems and auxiliary lighting was installed. The committee incorporated the expertise of Kathy Wathy and the local Horticultural Society to plant many beautiful trees and shrubs. In August, Remi and his crew, were back to work seeding the lot. As August ended, the committee members – all but Ken McFadden, who passed away on August 27th – came together to look upon the beautiful works they had jointly accomplished. Flowers, trees, shrubs, flags and benches, all inviting everyone to sit and enjoy the surroundings. In the first week of September, a newly erected white fence put the final touches to Ken’s dream. Plans were finalized for the Re-dedication of the Cenotaph and the opening of the Comber Veterans Memorial Gardens.
On September 23, 2000, Royal Canadian Legion, Local Zone Colour Guards, Legion Members, Ladies Auxiliary, and Veterans and surviving family members of Ken McFadden – Susan Whelan, MPP, Pat Hayes the Mayor of Lakeshore, and Local Councillors, brought forth greetings and thanks to the local members for a job well done.
A Donation Board proudly displays the names of all that donated. Prayers were offered, wreaths were placed and the celebration closed with a Formal Military Salute.
The community will never be able to thank Ken McFadden or Co-Chairman Ross Lonsbary for all their dedication, but Ken's vision came true for all of us to enjoy. People are continuing to add to the beauty of the Comber Veterans Memorial Gardens, as daffodils and tulip bulbs were planted by the local school children with the assistance of the Tilbury Horticultural Society. We all are watching the Gardens take shape and thanks again, Ken and Ross, for sharing your vision with us and thanks to your fellow workers for a job well done.
The war was over and the wounds now had to heal. Canada was a place of choice for many who immigrated over bringing with them nothing more than a trunk of clothes and what they had on their backs. Not all homecomings were happy, as some never made it back, but were laid to rest in the fields of Europe. Memorials were built and stand as testament of the contribution and bravery that Canada's forces gave so freedom could prevail. Many of those wounds have not or ever will be healed. Canadian soldiers gave so much, too many, their lives, so we could be free.
Before the war ended and after, the real tragedy was to see the little ones, the children of Europe who lost family. So many were on their own, too soon in life never understanding what had happened to their parents, brothers and sisters. Alone, to fend for themselves. Too many of the children were lost to indiscriminate bombings as well. How quickly and early on in life they found out what fear and death was. The fears in them hid their tears, tears that had long been shed; leaving permanent scars in their hearts that will never be forgotten.