Resurrecting the emotions of war

Emotional tales from wartime sought for memorial project

A military company marches in Patricia Bay

A military company marches in Patricia Bay

Applause is not unusual during the Nov. 11 parade of veterans in Sidney. This Remembrance Day, the Memorial Park Society hopes to see a little history bring similar emotion to the forefront at the Mary Winspear Centre as well.

The board, out of concern over waning memories of what the MPS stands for, found some funding through Veterans Affairs and is planning a bold display for the community in hopes of keeping the “Memorial” in the title.

“The board wanted to maintain the history,” said Lynn Fanelli, one of those tasked with researching and building the project.

Sidney Athletic Association and Sidney Women’s Auxiliary acquired 12 acres in 1928 for community use. The Memorial Park Society was established and the park was named the North Saanich War Memorial Park in honour of the local men lost in the First World War. It included a sports field and playground.

“Then we had more wars since it was established,” Fanelli said. “Over time it became a memorial for those who served in war and peace.”

The small park with statue, marker and fountain outside the Winspear still mark the place as a memorial, but the board is planning something a little more emotional.

“We wanted to make a personal connection with people,” Fanelli said.

The hope is to give people a sense of why military men, and later women, went to war or on peacekeeping missions.

“[It’s about] the effect it had on the people left behind and the people who came home and what they went through [after],” said Dave Bryan, curator of the Sidney Army Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada (ANAVETS) museum. “All these things have an effect on all the community.”

Through research, via the Veterans Affairs funding and the Sidney Archives, the team has all sorts of dates and names. They’re looking for the emotional elements, the impact on the community.

“We want to make this a community thing, which the park is. It’s a community situation,” said Brad Morrison, manager of the Sidney Archives. “It’s the purpose of the park … to make people remember.”

The trio hopes to hear from personal family tales how the Saanich Peninsula was involved in the world’s armed conflicts.

“We can’t tell the story if people don’t give us the story,” said Bryan. “The biggest difficulty is getting people to part with these memories. Some of them are very painful.”

The project will be unveiled on Nov. 11 and will run for the year. The plan is to have so much information they can change out the display in the gallery of the Mary Winspear Centre each year. The project will also be produced in hard copy and distributed to schools throughout the Saanich school district.

Because, as Bryan points out, “If you don’t know your history, you’re damned to repeat it.”

Anyone interested in sharing information should contact the Sidney Archives at or 250-656-1322.

Cash for the cause

The Royal Bank is helping to honour the Memorial Park Society, the charitable organization that operates the Mary Winspear Centre, with a $1,000 contribution.

Kim Walsh, manager at the Sidney RBC branch, entered their contribution into an internal provincial competition and RBC matched the local contribution. The centre will receive a total of $2,000.

The rise of Blue Heron

In 1921, a 12-acre North Saanich War Memorial Park was established in Sidney by a Memorial Park Society in dedication to the local men lost in the First World War.

Portions of the property were expropriated for road building including the Pat Bay Highway in 1961 and the Bevan Avenue diversion in 1983. The latter resulted in the Town of Sidney compensating the Memorial Park Society $500,000 for the purchase of substitute premises.

In 1986 the society purchased 41.1 acres of land beside Parkland school and McDonald Park. The acreage was dedicated to community, cultural, athletic and recreational uses, and named Blue Heron Park the following year. With additional funding from the province, school district and a group called Track 86, MPS pulled together more than $600,000 for developing the land.

In 2007, through partnership with the Peninsula Soccer Association, a major field upgrade project created the current two soccer fields that feature drainage irrigation and the latest turf technology providing the best grass fields in the region.


• join MPS at the box office of the Mary Winspear Centre, 2243 Beacon Ave. or donate to the society online at

• learn more about Sidney ANAVETS at