102-year-old Saskatchewan tree sculpted into war memorial
The tree is 6 metres tall with a 5-metre circumference
A dying 102-year-old tree near Estevan, Sask., has been given a new life.
Alberta carver Darren Jones is transforming the tree into a memorial for Second World War veterans.
Jones, a directional driller and chainsaw carver, was recruited by Lester Hinzman to create a tree sculpture. Hinzman, the son of a Second World War veteran, formed a committee in Estevan dedicated to paying tribute to veterans.
Hinzman met Jones while delivering casing to an oil rig where Jones was drilling. Impressed by Jones' sculptures, he invited him check out a farmyard tree near Estevan.
"He was quite passionate about the veterans and the feeling behind the war scene, how each soldier keeps care of each other," Jones said. "You have to take care of each other to get through the war."
Jones tried to represent the camaraderie of the battlefield in his art piece known as the Estevan Soldiers' Tree. After 11 days of carving, the sculpture is about 75 per cent complete.
Once the tree was trimmed, it stood six metres tall with a five-metre circumference. Jones spent the first four days working on the bottom half of the tree where he carved two infantry soldiers. One soldier grips a wound over his heart as the other pulls him to safety.
Jones spent another seven days carving three branches above the soldiers. A navy officer emerging from the water is sculpted on the left branch, a pilot with his airplane in the clouds soar in the middle, and a sergeant-at-arms towers above on the right.
Members of the committee formed by Hinzman shared their families' stories with Jones. As well, a local retired solider, Robert Rooks, acted as Jones' military advisor.
"They were telling me stories the whole time about the war and that's where the passion came from into the tree," said Jones. "I had a whole desk full of pictures of World War II and I just put together a story based on these fellows who told me about their families."
Jones plans to return to his sculpture in April. He wants to commemorate the women of the Second World War with a carving on the back of the tree and incorporate more details of the South Saskatchewan Regiment. Two poems on aluminum plating will also be placed on the sculpture.
"I'm talking to 60-plus-year-old men, who are the sons of veterans, and as they're telling me this, they are tearing up," Jones said. "It's amazing how it affected not just the soldiers, but their family and their ancestry.
"It's quite an emotional time. As an artist, you want to take in all this emotion and you want to represent it in your art."
The committee is asking for donations to build a platform for the sculpture in Estevan and pay Jones for his work. Donations can be made to the Royal Canadian Legion in the Estevan region.