LETHBRIDGE – A new capital campaign was announced on Thursday, Feb. 7, by the Lethbridge United Services Institute to establish a bronze monument recognizing the contributions of veterans of Alberta while commemorating Lethbridge as an Artillery City.
The goal, based on funding, is to have a ¼ life-size monument measuring 12 feet long depicting a WW1 18-pounder field gun and carriage being drawn by six horses and their drivers going into action at the end of WW1.
Lethbridge United Services Institute President Glenn Miller says it’s an important piece for his organization because they act as a link from the community to the citizens.
“When I posted here, I would wear my uniform to work and people often stopped and asked if I was visiting from Calgary or Edmonton, not realizing that there’s been a military presence in Lethbridge since 1908 and continues to be.”
Horses played a vital role in the contribution and success of WW1, and Miller says that rich culture is not as exposed to people in the city today.
“If you’re a rancher absolutely, but for the average person in Lethbridge they don’t recognize and understand the contributions horses made in World War One,” Miller said.
The 18-pounder gun was used by all four artillery units raised from Alberta. It will be modelled after the last gun to fire in WW1 from the Lethbridge 39th Battery.
The goal is to raise $200,000 through all levels of potential government and other granting organizations, individuals and businesses in order to commission the monument during Veterans Week 2019.
The total amount of money raised will determine the size of the bronze monument, and Miller is confident they can get the message out.
“It’s going to come down to the value the citizens and businesses put on recognizing that history. This is really an act of remembrance for us on a permanent basis because when the monument is indoors on Remembrance Day, people are going to pass it. Not just this year, but every year.
“If we are able to raise enough funds for a third of a size, it’s actually going to move outside. With the new Exhibition grounds in the future, that would be fantastic. A life-size would be $1.5 million, that would be ideal, but we’re also realistic as well so we’re shooting for a quarter scale. It’s not to say we can’t do a life-size, it’s just a matter of a means.”
The fundraising campaign will go from now until Veterans Day in November, but Miller says there’s another important date for them before then.
“May 15th is our biggest deadline because whatever money is raised, we could potentially leverage through the provincial government and double it,” Miller said.
The campaign is being done in partnership with Exhibition Park, something Miller says is very important.
“The Exhibition is very supportive to the community and we are part of the community, so we want to be supportive to the Exhibition because they’re going to be here for the next 100 years.”
Exhibition Park CEO Rudy Friesen says they’re proud to be able to provide a permanent home to showcase this monument to their patrons.
“We’re proud to partner with the Lethbridge United Services Institute, and it will see a large exposure to patrons as Exhibition Park becomes the prime location in Southern Alberta to host conferences, agricultural events, trade shows and special events.”
The artist of the monument, Don Toney, was notified of the project by Miller who asked if he would be interested in trying to produce it.
“I thought it sounded like a very interesting and worthy project to work on, and I thought it would be beneficial to the community. I was all on-board with trying to help him realize that vision.”
Toney says what they wanted to do was create a sense of action and urgency of the moment that’s portrayed in the sculpture.
“I think that’s why we chose this, the medium I work in is wax to create the original models, and that was part of the reason for doing this. I’ve been doing this as a professional for 40 some years, there are always challenges, and you always push yourself to do the best work that you can in any project. I guess I always find it challenging but with the experience I’ve had it’s just more of a straight forward process.”
The focus of the monument is heavy on horses, which should come as no surprise especially considering Toney himself has a western background.
“I grew up on a ranch, I was around horses all my life, so the horse is one of the main subject matters in my work that I portray. That came very naturally, but I’m not so familiar with military history. I have some uncles who were in WW2 but I don’t recall any military family background in WW1 that I’m aware of,” Toney stated.
They’re accepting contributions from across the nation because there are descendants from across the world, and donations can be made by cheque or debit in person at Lethbridge County administration.
Miller asks anyone interested in donating to put attention Lethbridge United Services Institute, which will then issue a charitable tax receipt.
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