— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Pat O’Rourke can hardly contain his pride as he shows off the home of his town’s new veteran’s memorial.
“Oh yes. I’m very happy. Very pleased,” said the retired master corporal.
Pointing out a freshly landscaped area off Marine Drive in the Town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, O’Rourke said it’s a beautiful site for the community to honour the war dead.
“It’s been five years in the making and I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that everything will be in place for July 1,” he said, standing in the centre where the memorial will be placed.
Four flag poles, impeccably placed slabs of reinforced concrete blocks and two seating areas surround the monument site.
“The lieutenant-governor (Frank Fagan) is coming down with us to officially unveil the memorial. His aide was here and looked over the site and he was pleased with it. So it’s going to be a big day,” said O’Rourke, a communications operator who retired in 1987.
He said a special service will be held July 1 at 3 p.m. followed by a celebration at the community centre to enjoy Canada Day as well.
The 73-year-old, who served two tours of duty in the Middle East, said the memorial project has been a longtime dream of his and, with the help of the town council and the community, it is finally a reality.
“To begin with, we’re probably only one of the few towns in the province that doesn’t have one.”
“All the surrounding areas have their war memorials,” O’Rourke continued. “I’m a veteran, a peacekeeping veteran. I spent 28 years in the military and just figured we should have one,” O’Rourke told The Telegram in 2012 when fundraising for the project was getting underway.
Town manager Adele Carruthers said the veterans memorial committee and the people of the town have done a great job of getting the idea off the ground and raising the money necessary to fulfil the project.
She said the committee applied to Veterans Affairs under the Community War Memorial Program and were successful in achieving funds.
Part of the condition of the funding, about $24,000, was the committee had to match the funds, which it has been doing over the past few years through a variety of ways.
When O’Rourke and Carruthers spoke to The Telegram in 2012, the cost of the project was hovering around the $55,000 mark.
But O’Rourke said the cost has certainly gone over budget.
“There’s nothing cheap about landscaping and this kind of work,” he said tapping his foot on the concrete bock.
“Overall I think we’re somewhere in the neighbourhood of $80,000 to $100,000, but we haven’t finished the totals yet. It’s quite worth it and the town has been very good to us, and the federal and provincial governments as well as the community,” he said.
O’Rourke said the official unveiling of the monument on Memorial Day is a fitting tribute to the Newfoundlanders who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916.
“I remember when I went to Beaumont Hamel a few years ago words can’t describe how I felt being there,” he told The Telegram Friday.
“The unveiling of the memorial will be a similar sense of of pride. Everyone should experience it,” said O’Rourke.
According to heritage.nf.ca/greatwar/articles/somme.html, 801 members of the Newfoundland Regiment — 25 officers, 776 NCOs and other ranks — were sent into action at Beaumont Hamel.
“That night the search began for survivors. When the roll call was taken, only 68 responded. The full cost would not be known for several days. The final figures revealed that the regiment had been virtually wiped out: 710 killed, wounded or missing. Most were struck down before they reached beyond their own front line,” says the website.