The Fort Frances Museum and Cultural Centre was adorned with poppies and Forget-Me-Not flowers on Friday as an exhibit opened honouring the fallen military members of the Rainy River District across four major military conflicts.
The poppy is the traditional flower for remembering fallen soldiers but the Forget-Me-Not has been a symbol of remembering the fallen since World War One, especially among the lost of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel.
Marjorie Stintzi is the guest curator and gathered all of the information for the exhibit, she says when she heard the men referred to as a list of names she got upset and that drove her to pursue this project.
“I think it was my anger that somebody referred to them as a list of names,” she said. “When I was a kid I always went to Remembrance Day things. I remember we had to memorize ‘In Flanders Fields’ in grade six. My two grandfathers fought in the First World War, and one of them was imprisoned by the Japanese in the Second World War. So these guys had to be more than just names.”
Stintzi has spent the last number of years researching the war dead of the district from the First and Second World Wars as well as the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
One story that Stintzi really likes to think of is that of Rudolph McPherson.
“I try not to play favourites,” she said. “I’m very fond of Rudolph McPherson because I found a picture of him as a kid on a bike. He grew up on Rainy Lake on a reserve with his grandparents and I thought it was probably a really cool thing for him.”
Stintzi is hoping people will come to the museum and learn about the lives that these men led before they went to war and paid the ultimate price in defending others.
“They all have different stories, in their own ways,” she said. “Some of them you can’t find enough on and it’s kind of sad, you can’t find family and you can’t find a picture.”
She’s hoping that with some of the names being out there without photos people might realize that they have a photo of one of the men on the walls of the museum and be able to add a face to the name. This is what happened at the opening when someone recognized one of the men.
“I’m getting one picture, Robert Trader’s picture,” She said. “Someone saw he was here and has a picture.”
She’s also sharing pictures of people’s family members that might not have seen the photos before.
She also tells the story of taking some of her information to local schools. She knew a young student was a relative of one of the men she was presenting that day and she gave the child a photo.
“I made sure he got this little card with a picture of him, when we were talking about him,” she said. “Just the impact on this kid saying ‘oh this is my relative,’ they don’t realize.”
“After my first year I got these names and fixed these men, I gave them ages and birthdays, people were amazed at the ages of these guys. Just a simple thing like an age, saying ‘I didn’t know they were that young.’”
The exhibit will be in place from now until the middle of December. She hopes that school groups will have the opportunity to come through and see and the museum will be open around Remembrance Day for people to come and consider the memories of the people who gave their lives for the freedom of others.
The museum is open Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. until the end of October.
Stintizi hopes that the exhibit will help people realize that these aren’t just people who died.
“(I want to) I don’t know, just make them live for a little bit,” She said. “At least know what they did for a living and where they came from. I’m not pro-war, I’m pro-remember these guys because they all went off and they lost everything.”