Hundreds of people jammed downtown St. Albert this week to get a glimpse of the city’s massive new monument to its greatest citizens.
About 350 people gathered by the clock tower on Perron Street Thursday night to check out the city’s new Community Recognition monument. The monument, which consists of five bench-sized boulders, features the names of 114 people, couples, groups and businesses that have made significant contributions to St. Albert.
And there will be more to come in the years ahead, said Mayor Nolan Crouse.
“We will continue to honour them, and we will continue to etch their names [there]forever,” he said.
The monument is part of a community recognition garden located at the corner of Perron Street and Sir Winston Churchill Avenue. Council approved the $160,000 project in 2008 and started taking nominations last October.
St. Albert has a long history of residents that make a difference, Crouse said, and this monument is meant to recognize them. “We name things after elected officials or school trustees, but what about the hundreds of others that build your community?”
The monument features 114 names of people, groups or businesses that made significant contributions to St. Albert in the fields of arts, community, sports and the professions, said Anna Royer, business manager with community and protective services.
Among those names are four famous businesses from the city’s history, noted St. Albert Chamber of Commerce president Lynda Moffat, and two previously announced recipients of the Pillars of Business award, which goes to businesses that have been in town for more than 30 years. Future recipients will also go on the monument.
The monument consists of five basalt boulders, said Terry Reynoldson, the Calgary-based artist who carved it, with the 114 names engraved on them. He chose basalt due to its exceptional hardness and durability. Each boulder weighs three to six tonnes.
Inspired by the Sturgeon River and the concept of time as a river, Reynoldson said he carved the tops of each chunk so that they resembled waves.
“It kind of emphasizes that feeling of rushing water,” he said.
The whole work took about five months to complete.
This year’s nominees received a boot-sized chunk of basalt left over from the monument’s construction with their name on it, Royer said. “They’re very heavy!”
Whole lotta names
In a marathon 24-minute speech, Crouse read through 113 of the 114 names on the monument along with a brief description of each. (He missed pottery teacher and philanthropist Nell Sadee, to whom he later apologized.) The names run the gamut of the city’s 150-year history from Father Albert Lacombe to more recent contributors like former city councillor Carol Watamaniuk.
The St. Albert Historical Society suggested many of the more obscure names on the monument, said Ray Pinco, the group’s president. Zoé Leblanc-Emery was one of the first three Grey Nuns in St. Albert, for example, while Michel Normand and Rose Plante were the first settlers to arrive here with Albert Lacombe.
“The first settlers for the first 10 years were all Métis,” Pinco noted, so the society added The Métis to the list. “As a group they were important, but as individuals they’re largely anonymous.”
Other groups include the engagés — labourers — and the Oblate Brothers — tradespeople who cobbled shoes, smote iron and milled grain.
Pinco said he was overwhelmed to be one of the names listed on the monument.
“It’s a great honour to be included in that list,” he said.
The city plans to add more names to the monument each year, Royer added, although it won’t normally do this many.
“I like to think of [this]as more of a catch-up year,” she said.
They certainly have plenty of room — three of the stones are still blank.
Click here for a full list of recipients.
Here are a few of the 114 names read by Mayor Nolan Crouse during his address at the monument’s unveiling, along with some of his comments.
o Michael Hogan, St. Albert’s longest-serving mayor and the only one to die in office: “You have to wonder if being mayor for 24 years contributed to it.”
o Hutching’s Shoes, one of the four historic businesses on the monument: “It happened to be the first business I stopped [at]when I came into St. Albert.”
o Joe Benoit, the first St. Albert resident to play in the NHL.
o Rosanna Lafranchise, one of the first female postmistresses in Alberta.
o Former Gazette editor Sue Gawlak.
o City founder Father Albert Lacombe: “Thank you, Father Lacombe. Nothing more needs to be said.”
A list of the names and a brief biography of each, as compiled by Anna Royer, can be found at www.stalbertgazette.com/pdf/sag/Community_Recognition_Recipients.pdf