Public meetings to be held regarding Southampton Cenotaph rejuvenation

Harry Mazmanian, along with Richard Mattiussi, Peter McGuire and Stewart Shular, representing a group known as Concerned Residents of Southampton, presented a delegation to Saugeen Shores Council on May 13th regarding the rejuvenation/restoration of the Southampton Cenotaph.

Mazmanian introduced each of the group, who have a total of 131 years as Legion members (Mazmanian-48 yrs., Shular-40 yrs., Mattiussi-30 yrs. and McGuire 13 yrs.).  He pointed out however, that they were presenting to Council as residents of Southampton and not members of the Legion.

A proposal was previously brought to Council by John Willetts, past President of Southampton Legion, that is similar to the Vimy Ridge monument in France.

In his presentation, Mazmanian said that the group had three reasons for coming to Council:

  • to propose two possible solutions for Town Council’s consideration to rebuild or replicate the existing cenotaph as compared to the only other proposal thus far;
  • to strongly advocate for Southampton residents inherent right to decide what happens to the existing cenotaph;
  • to advocate for a cenotaph that represents our local fallen heroes from all wars, not just a copy of a monument that is specific to one war.

The group also brought forward four proposals for the Cenotaph revitalization that included a replica reconstruction of the existing monument, retain the existing monument with upgrades and retain the existing illuminated cross.

Vice-deputy Mayor, Mike Myatt, as past Chair of the Port Elgin Cenotaph, said that the presentation had raised some good ideas and shed some new light on the project.  “It’s going to be beautiful and there will be some opportunity for public consultation.”

Deputy Mayor Diane Huber said that Cenotaph intersection is iconic.  “I have an interest in doing this really well … not only the Cenotaph that needs some TLC but the area around it.  The cross says ‘Lest We Forget’ and ‘We Will Remember Them’ is another expression.  I’ve been to several military cemeteries in Europe and they are full of crosses … I look forward to the public engagement situation because we are going to have one chance to do this legacy project.  Hopefully, we will come up with something that lends itself to a growing civic pride because it is such an important intersection.”

Councillor John Divinski of Southampton Ward said that, although the group had come as private citizens that, given their years of service in the Legion, “…the Legion will have to be on board as it should be, and I think that’s one of the elephants in the room.  Divinski asked Mazmanian if he had talked to Mr. Willetts, or Willets to him, and if there was an opportunity to combine their talents.  Mazmanian replied that he would “…prefer to answer ‘in camera’ or discuss it in private”.   Divinski said that he “… didn’t expect the answer” and Mazmanian said he “…didn’t expect the question”.  Mazmanian followed up by saying however that he would be willing to talk to Mr. Willetts “…anytime, anywhere.”

Councillor Divinski also asked a somewhat rhetorical question “… I am of the opinion that Mr. Willett’s group has the support of the Legion?” to which Mazmanian responded in the affirmative.  Divinski went on to say that “…we have one shot at this and, if we don’t do it right, then we’ll be lost forever … I certainly don’t want to be put in the middle of this one side versus the other side … maybe the public meetings will help, but I think both sides need to be open to discuss this for the betterment of the community and, right now, I’m a little concerned that it’s ‘he said, he said’ and I personally don’t want that.  I want this to move forward.  i think those discussions have to happen … and we can kick the elephant out of the room.”

Deputy Mayor Huber also pointed out that a consultant had been hired for the High Street improvement project and that the Cenotaph was part of that.  “They are third player in this and would have expertise in what is possible (at this location) …  regarding people, traffic and monuments.”

Mayor Luke Charbonneau said that reports would be going out to Council following the meeting.  “We will have public information centres (PICs)coming up and that’s the best place to hear from the citizens of Southampton and all citizens of our community and their thoughts on the Cenotaph and what we are planning for High Street in general.  We are eager to hear those thoughts and incorporate them into a broader plan.  Councillor Divinski is right regarding the Cenotaph.  No matter what we do we have to work closely with our partner, the Legion and need to align with the Legion around the Cenotaph … we are keen to work with the Legion as an organization and to hear from the public on whatever design we come up with.  There will a public information centre at the end of June and again in the Fall and hope to see everybody there.”

For more on the Cenotaph project, CLICK HERE

To listen to Council discussion on project, CLICK HERE