Restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a smaller than usual group gathering for the 100th Service of Remembrance at the war memorial in Morewood. The Morewood Cenotaph is shown with the wreaths laid during this service on Nov. 11. Thompson Goddard Photo

MOREWOOD – This July 6 marked the 100th anniversary of the unveiling of the First World War memorial which stands in the centre of the small North Dundas community of Morewood. For over two years, members of the Morewood Cenotaph Committee have been working with volunteer organizations, local residents and businesses to raise funds to revitalize the cenotaph and increase awareness of the sacrifices made during wartime.

In a June 28 press release, Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry MP Eric Duncan announced the contribution of up to $25,000 from Veterans Affairs Canada through the Commemorative Partnership Program. This will be added to the monies already raised through various fundraising activities including, but not limited to, contributions by the township of North Dundas, an online Go Fund Me donation page, an online auction, take-out ham dinner catered by Christ Church United and held in the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 434 in Chesterville.  

Duncan notes “The restoration and enhancement project is estimated to cost just $63,000 with this undertaking to include “cleaning, examining and ensuring the structural integrity of the monument; repairing the damaged World War One plaque; adding a small plaque for a Morewood soldier whose name is currently missing” as well as a pillar to acknowledge later due to injuries sustained during their service and 20 granite pillars bearing the likeness of the soldier, if available, as well as information about the soldier. 

The revitalization of the monument and the other associated projects are as a result of the Morewood Cenotaph Committee spending countless hours in meetings with stakeholders and fine-tuning plans on how to commemorate this milestone anniversary. It was during these meetings that discussions centred around many of the projects which are now in the process of being completed. The committee agreed that adding the name of Private Maurice Ogden Cheney to the memorial, and the placing of the granite pillars bearing the likeness and information on the twenty names of soldiers fallen during the First World War were a top priority for the group. The twenty granite pillars will serve to remind those who have benefitted from the supreme sacrifice made by these men who ranged in age between 14 and 38 years of age are not just a name, but people with loved ones and a future ahead of them.

One of the early memorial fundraising projects was the commissioning of a painting for the community by Gordon Coulthart, a former resident of Morewood by the Chesterville & District Historical Society.  Entitled “A Fallen Leaf”, the painting currently hangs in the Morewood Recreation Centre, with prints of the painting sold at the fundraiser for the centennial commemorations. Over the past 18 months, there have been many residents who have stepped forward to make donations of time, energy and money for the project as well as several businesses who have worked collaboratively as the centennial approaches to revitalize the memorial and its surrounding space.

Morewood Cenotaph Committee chair, Bill Smirle commented in the press release, “I am so pleased that Veterans Affairs Canada has supported this project to celebrate one hundred years for our well-recognized cenotaph in the centre of town,” continuing how the community stepped forward, demonstrating their “responsibility and gratitude once again, by getting involved quickly with very generous donations that completed our fundraising in record time.” Duncan thanked Veterans Affairs Canada and the support from the federal government for this project and noted how “We are very fortunate that the local volunteers have done such a fantastic job raising funds and finding a nice way to both refurbish and enhance the already stunning cenotaph in Morewood.

While the COVID-19 pandemic will prohibit gathering at the Morewood Cenotaph on July 6, we will be able to quietly remember how one hundred years earlier, hundreds of residents and visitors travelled to Morewood to watch as the oversized Union Jack was lifted, and the magnificent memorial came into view. There are tentative plans to hold a commemorative and rededication service on Fri., Sept. 10, “once further Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted to allow the local community to attend and participate in the service.” Certainly, the torch thrown to us by our fallen, has been picked up by this community, ensuring the phrase “Their Name Liveth Forever More” which is carved into one of the granite slabs of the memorial; it will remain as true today as it did in 1921.