Monday, June 20, 2011

Portraits of Honour

A double ceremony recently held in Trenton Ontario meant for a full day of honour, respect and remembrance for our military personnel.

To begin with, the repatriation ceremony of Canada’s 156th fallen soldier, Bombardier Karl Manning, made its way down the Highway of Heroes to CFB 8 Wing. Attendees included government officials such as the Governor General David Johnston, family members and the public at large. This solemn event was followed by the beginning of a nation wide tour of the Portraits of Honour mural.

This hand painted mural is a staggering 10 foot by 40 foot memorial depicting, with striking precision, all Canadian soldiers, sailors and air crew that have given their lives to the war in Afghanistan.

The artist, Dave Sopha, is the son of a Canadian soldier and a British War Bride, and also a member of the service club Kin Canada in Cambridge Ontario. In response to the loss of Canadian soldiers since 2002, Dave began to do what he does best; paint. As an accomplished artist, he has painted many other military themed murals, but this one was to be his largest project yet. In December 2008 he began the daunting task of painting every single fallen member since the war in Afghanistan began, spending an average of 80 hours on each picture perfect portrait. His intention was to ‘remember, honour and celebrate.’ It was decided that this project needed nation wide attention.

This tour is an opportunity for thousands of Canadians coast to coast to remember and get up close and personal to the fallen men and women of the Canadian forces. The artists sketch of Bombardier Karl Manning was also on hand at the viewing on the base.

Dave Sopha’s passion and dedication is painfully appreciated each and every time one stands before the mural in awe of the sacrifice given by those who proudly wear the uniform. The mural was unveiled recently at its first national tour stop at the military base in Trenton. The reveal took place at The National Air Force Museum of Canada during a gala event hosted at CFB 8 Wing by Belleville’s Kin Canada. Bruce Airhart, a Kinsmen, was one of many volunteers on hand organizing this gala with the proceeds going to the Military Families Fund and also, he said, “to the Military Family Resource Centre located on the base. “ These military resources are in place to support the families of those fallen soldiers and further to support the injured soldiers that return home.

The seven month tour will see the mural travel coast to coast allowing thousands of Canadians to view this wall of remembrance. For more information and for the tour schedule visit

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shopping Downtown

As you stroll in downtown at your own comfortable pace, take a break from your window-shopping, take a moment and look up and let your eyes explore the old façade of the buildings down here. The detailed architecture is a reminder of the history that these buildings hold. Every downtown core housed a Woolworths Five and Dime, a Kresge’s Department store or an S&R, and if you look close enough, you will be able to make out the buildings they once occupied. Downtown shopping is more than just getting the things you need, it is really a chance to slow things down, an adventure into the past, to a time when you knew everyone who you were buying from.

Recently on a sunny afternoon, I made my way into one of my favourite antique shops to browse for a gift. “Hello Marina,” I said to the owner. She returns my hello with a big welcoming smile and asks, “How are all your girls?” She knows I am heading for the hats. I love the comfort of knowing the owner by name, the familiar feel to this shop and her personalized service. There is pride in ownership and quality here. I leave with a hat, the gift wrapped, and a smile.

This could be any specialty shop in one of the many local downtown shopping areas. We are seeing a resurgence in downtown commerce as the lure of shopping in the big box stores wanes. The trends are seeing the shoppers moving from these large shopping centres downtown to the smaller urban communities. We, the shoppers, are looking for that quality and unique something that can only be found in the charming shops that line Main Street. As we become more dependent on our modern conveniences, we are finding ourselves more and more disconnected from the world around us. Our downtowns give us the sense of belonging again.

Local downtown shop owners have been coming together in response to the need for downtown revitalization. The passion of the store owners gives way to countless volunteer hours and this response has resulted in community action and improving that connection to your neighbourhood shopping. Our downtowns have the added advantage of the waterfront which further enhances the downtown experience. What makes it work? Downtowns have to have it all. From the hardware store to the specialty clothing boutique, from the homemade ice cream to the fantastic original artwork, from the live theatre to the local café, you will find shopping in your local downtown a personal experience.

Granted, the busiest months for the downtown core occur during the summer, those involved in downtown planning have events running all year round, and the list of events is extensive. From winter celebrations to art walks and parades, to book readings and side walk sales, there is always something tempting you back into your community.

Check out the summer edition of the County and Quinte Living Magazine