Okotoks 'Salute to our Veterans' memorial wall expanded
A popular war memorial in Okotoks is expanding.
Phase two of the memorial wall includes names of men from Okotoks who served in the Boer War, First World War and the Korean War.
"There are over 100 soldiers and names and photographs and stories that our museum has compiled," said Allan Boss, Okotoks cultural and heritage team leader. "We have all that information and we've added a few panels to tell that story."
The memorial wall is a popular spot for people of all ages in town and surrounding area.
"We added a handrail on the top of the hill because there's a lot of seniors that come and want to look at it," said Boss. "There wasn't a handrail there and they needed a way to get down so it's very popular, you can drive by here almost anytime a day, especially in the summer and see somebody standing there reading."
Phase 1 was unveiled in 2017 featuring images of people from the town who were involved in the Second World War. The Salute to our Veterans memorial is located on a retaining wall on the west side of Veteran's Way. The entire project cost $210,000 and Boss said the community played a large part in determining the wall's features.
"We brought in a committee of local stakeholder groups to help us decide which design was going to get on the wall so it's really owned by the community," said Boss.
Kathy Coutts, the town's museum and archive specialist, said many family members donated photos for the project who were happy to do it for the opportunity to celebrate the soldiers.
"I think the photographs are important because it humanizes them you know," said Coutts. "They're not just names on a wall, you can look to see how remarkably young some of them look and yeah I think it's very unique."
Coutts said it's hard to believe Okotoks had such a large presence serving in the Canadian Military from 1899 to 1953.
"Consider the size Okotoks was for the Boer War, there were 11 (men that volunteered), for World War One there were 151 from Okotoks and the surrounding area, the population was 700 at the time," said Coutts. "Everybody was willing, it's just remarkable that for the size of the town how many people were willing to serve."
Allan Tosh's father and grandfather are memorialized on the wall. William S. Tosh senior's picture is up on both early war plaques.
"JR, signed up when he was 16, he lied about his age in school," said Joan Tosh, Allan's wife. "Then senior had served in the Boer War and then he served in India and then also World War One."
Allan doesn't have many stories to share about his dad and grandfather because the men didn't talk about the war when they got home, but he's proud to see their images on the memorial wall.
"Well, these people are heroes," said Allan. "And we got to remember our heroes."
Allan Boss said there will likely be a phase three of the project some time in the future that will include Okotoks men and women who represented Canada in more recent conflicts.