Along 50 Ave. in front of the Lacombe Memorial Centre, sits the cenotaph, anchoring what we know today as the Lest We Forget Park.
It is due to efforts of a group of enthusiastic women in Lacombe almost a century ago that we have this park, surrounding gardens, the cenotaph and a place to remember. The Lest We Forget Club truly did have a lasting impact in Lacombe and the surrounding area.
The Lest We Forget Club was formed on Feb. 22nd, 1922, by a group of women who were wives, widows, mothers and sisters and the like of veterans of the First World War. They were first an auxiliary to the Great War Veterans Association, which later became the Royal Canadian Legion.
The club received its charter in December of 1922 and boasted 28 members, all who were female. The very first president was Mrs. Alfred Lundie, who held the position for seven years. The vice-president was Mrs. ‘Dr.’ Simpson, with Mrs. Anna Aldwinkle as secretary and Mrs. Roger Oakley as treasurer on the first executive board.
Quickly, after their initial formation, the group received land, a 137 ft. by 240 ft. parcel, from the Lacombe School Board to be used for a memorial park. The local community donated money for memorial trees, but most of the funds for the park, garden and cenotaph were raised directly by the group.
The group was well remembered for organizing many fundraisers, some that were kind of zany, all to raise funds for their cause. One Halloween, the ladies dressed up like gypsies and did tea leaf readings to raise funds. In that one night, the group raised $300, which would be equivalent to almost $4,000 today. It was also reported one fundraiser idea included a fortune telling attraction at a local fair.
Once the group raised enough money for the park and garden portion, they began raising money towards a new task – placing a $3,500 marble statue, the cenotaph, which would have names of those who lost their lives in the war inscribed on it, in the centre of the park.
Once this goal was achieved, an unveiling was planned for October of 1924. The ladies invited the Prince of Wales to unveil the tribute statue at the park’s opening ceremony. The royal secretary declined the offer.
The cenotaph, with 72 names inscribed, and memorial park were then unveiled on Oct. 31st, 1924 by R. G. Brett, the then Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.
Author Grant MacEwan said of women’s organizations of the time, “Of all the organizations in the community since the beginning of settlement of Lacombe, the Lest We Forget Club accomplished the most.”
Throughout the following years, several improvements were made to the park, including adding an iron fence, gates, sidewalks, shrubbery and flower beds.
The park continued to be maintained by the club but was later turned back to the Town of Lacombe in April of 1955, with one condition outlaid by the president, Mrs. Seymour Edmunds, that the park’s name remain – Lest We Forget.
-with files from the Lacombe and District Historical Society.