At the Memorial Park cenotaph on Wednesday morning (June 19), the municipality of Port Hope announced the new “Avenue of Heroes” banner program to honour local veterans.
Joining many communities across Canada that have adopted similar “Lest We Forget” banner campaigns, Port Hope’s banner program came to fruition through the dedication and co-operation of several community organizations.
The municipality, Port Hope Mayor Bob Sanderson and city council, the Heritage Business Improvement Area (HBIA), and a creative marketing team led by Port Hope’s marketing manager Kevin Narraway, have all given the banner program their full support.
“Working in partnership with special interest groups in the community has made this program accessible to everyone,” said Mayor Sanderson. “It’s exactly the kind of collaboration that makes Port Hope so extraordinary.”
The Rotary of Club of Port Hope and Royal Canadian Legion Branch 30 were instrumental in bringing the project to the streets of downtown Port Hope.
“When the Rotary Club of Port Hope approached us to be part of the Avenue of Heroes banner program, it was a great opportunity for us to promote our mandate, Lest We Forget,” said legion president Andre Labrosse.
Following neighbouring Cobourg’s Armistice 18 initiative last fall, Port Hope joins the broader Northumberland community in distinctly recognizing and remembering its local war heroes.
According to Rotary Club president Bob Wallace, it all began when a Port Hope Rotarian noticed a similar banner program in the small Ontario community of Uxbridge and brought the idea to Port Hope.
“This year there will be 29 banners that will go up on brackets for existing light standards along Mill street and along Lent Lane,” Wallace said. “They will go up around October 15th and they will stay up until Remembrance Day. They will be taken down and erected every year thereafter.”
The Rotary Club first took their idea directly to legion members, where it was very well received and supported by the branch.
“This program directly aligns with our goal as a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion to honour our veterans,” Labrosse said. “We are thrilled to be part of a project that will remind the community of all of the great contributions the men and women of Port Hope made for us and the freedoms we enjoy today.”
Each banner will include a veteran’s photograph, name, date of birth, service details, and date of death (if applicable).
From the ground, the details for each veteran will be large enough to read, reflect on, and photograph to share with others.
Under the supervision of marketing manager Kevin Narraway, Port Hope’s marketing and tourism department took the lead on designing the banner, a mock-up of which was displayed at the announcement of the program.
The mock-up features a photo of Narraway’s own father, George, who served during World War II.
“My father served in the Royal Canadian Navy,” Narraway said. “He was on the HMCS Giffard and he joined when he was just 17 years old — he lied about his age to get in. He served until the end of the war.”
As the photographs used for the banners will need to be large enough to be seen from the ground, image quality will be an important part of banner selection. Narraway has a high-resolution photograph of his father to use as a test.
“We wanted to make sure we could actually blow a five-by-seven inch photo up to the size we would need for the banners,” Narraway added. “Essentially, (George Narraway) is our promo guy and he would have loved that.”
According to Narraway, the actual vetting process for who will be featured on the 29 banners that will go up this year will depend greatly on how many applications are received, and will rely heavily on the input of the Royal Canadian Legion.
“We’ve already received a lot of applications,” Narraway said. “It’s going to be a very successful program. However, we want to make sure that we don’t miss anybody that really should be recognized because they have received honours in the military. We really need the help and support of the legion to help us understand who these people were and which part of the military they served in.”
A few veterans were in attendance to see the mock-up of the banner, including Wilmer Gagnon, who moved to Port Hope in the late 1980s with his wife.
“I attend Armistice celebrations every year,” he said. “It’s important to remember.”
Now widowed, Gagnon attended the launch today on his own, but says his wife would also have appreciated the town’s efforts.
The final banners are will officially be unveiled this October.
“This is an exciting new initiative for our community and we are proud to participate in what will be a wonderful, visual reminder of the sacrifices made by our war heroes,” Mayor Sanderson said.
Port Hope councillor Laurie Carr added that council is fully behind the ‘Avenue of Heroes’ banner program.
“Being a heritage town, it’s truly a wonderful addition to our historic downtown,” she said.
The banner program is currently accepting applications on a first come, first served basis. If you know of a war veteran who should be recognized, application forms are available at the Port Hope Public Library, Town Hall, and the Visitor Centre (all of which are located on Queen Street), or at the Port Hope Community Hub and Royal Canadian Legion Branch 30 locations. The application process is free of charge, and there is no cost to participate.
To qualify, each military service member must have a connection to Port Hope and they may either be currently active, retired from service, or deceased. Each application must be accompanied with a high resolution 5″x7″ portrait-style photo of the service member in uniform.
If you have any questions about image resolution, or eligibility, the team located at the Port Hope Visitor Centre (20 Queen Street, located inside of the Capitol Theatre building) can help. Applications should be dropped off in Port Hope at the Visitor Centre or the Legion Branch 30 location (29A Thomas Street).