Matilda’s new monument rededicated in time for Nov. 11th

DIXONS CORNERS — A revamped and refurbished Matilda Township Cenotaph was officially rededicated here on Sunday, Oct. 27.

Approximately $60,000 worth of work took place at the Dixons Corners location. A joint initiative of the Iroquois Legion and the Iroquois-Matilda Lions Club and spearheaded by (now MP-elect) Eric Duncan as chair of the project committee, the job included refurbishing the original monument and bronze plaques from 1984 and installing new walkways between the main Matilda Hall entrance and the monument site in front of the building. A platform to display the Cenotaph and monument was also put up, along with lighting, landscaping, new flag pole and other beautification items.

“We are gathered here … in the hamlet of Dixon’s Corners — a community in the former Matilda Township that welcomed home many men who served our country thousands of miles away, who saw unimaginable horrors, who fought for our way of life here,” said Duncan to those assembled, including elected officials from local municipal council (South Dundas), MPP Jim McDonell, as well as representatives from the involved organizations and former SD&G Highlanders Honorary Colonel Bill Shearing.

“And in a community that welcomes many immigrants in the years afterwards who were impacted by the scars of wars in their homeland, we are here today, and we are what we are today because of the service and sacrifices of those whose names are etched on the Cenotaph and bronze plaques,” continued the incoming Member of Parliament for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry and emcee for the event.

“We are thankful to our community as we celebrate the completion of this beautiful restoration and remember the sacrifices made by so many in the efforts to protect our freedoms here at home — freedoms that we continue to enjoy today as a result of their service and their sacrifice,” added Duncan, who introduced his fellow committee members in attendance — South Dundas Councillor Archie Mellan, Cindy Ault Peters, Lions Club member (and former Deputy Mayor) Jim Locke and Iroquois Legion President Darlene Riddell.

The Matilda Cenotaph was built at its current location in 1984 and “after 35 years, it was time for a refurbishment and modernization,” explained Duncan, who got involved during his year off between being mayor of North Dundas and elected MP.

The day’s observances included the laying of wreaths, a prayer delivered by Pastor Aaron Thompson, and performances by the Kemptville Pipe band.

Plans for the revamp took flight last December and gathered steam through the winter, with the committee presenting to local council in February. Much of the project was privately fundraised through the sale of engraved stones on site. The effort also landed a $25,000 federal grant, through Veterans’ Affairs, along with a $10,000 contribution from EDP Renewables’ Community Fund in connection with the South Branch Wind Farm in that neighbourhood.

A few stones are still available for purchase, according to the committee, and the work — while just about complete — still awaits an additional bench and two flag poles.

Two firms were commissioned: Keith Ardron of Ardron Landscaping and Kevin Allen of Eastern Ontario Cemetery Memorials.

Duncan observed that the project served as a reminder that “we get things done” through partnerships and teamwork.

Most important, he added, “we must remember the sacrifices made over the years to ensure that we have a strong democracy, a good quality of life, and a prosperous future.

“As a young Canadian, I have not seen or cannot fathom the agony of the men and women who fought on the front lines of war. And while we have young men and women like them serving around the world today, we always continue to hope there is never a generation that has to experience that again. The damage of war. The pain of loss. The frustration of lives and families shattered forever.”

The MP-elect acknowledged the monument’s personal importance to his own family, as his grandfather, Eddie Duncan, served in the Second World War before coming home to Matilda Township. Five of his grandfather’s brothers also fought in the war and fortunately returned. “I can only imagine the struggles to cope with their experiences,” Duncan reflected. “But I cannot help to think of the optimism and pride that they had. For providing a life for not only their families, but their country, and for future generations to come. The progress we have made, the changes they have seen, and knowing that the best is yet to come because of their strength and courage is important to remember.

“The lives of those from the Matilda area we lost, and those who survived, share the same stories as many generations of veterans that fought along side them and can be comforted with that same belief. We owe it to them to remember. To be forever grateful for their selfless contribution to our quality of life today.”

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