Saskatoon's living memorial last of its kind in Canada
Walking tour of memorial elms offered this weekend
It is the last of its kind in Canada, and this week Saskatoon's Next of Kin Memorial Avenue of Trees at Woodlawn Cemetery marks 94 years of standing for those who fought and died for this country.
They arch over the avenue and it's just beautiful.- Peggy Sarjeant
People will have an opportunity for a guided tour of the monument this weekend.
The road features 112 stately mature elms with bronze plaques, each tree dedicated to a local soldier who fought and died in the First World War.
"They arch over the avenue and it's just beautiful," said Peggy Sarjeant, with the city's heritage society.
"They were living memorials rather than stone monuments. People felt there should be more practical or more beautiful ways of memorializing the dead."
Saskatoon's stand of memorial trees lives on
Sarjeant will lead a walking tour of the National Historic Site on Saturday, on behalf of the University of Saskatchewan Great War commemoration committee.
"It's the only intact one left in the country," said Sarjeant, in an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.
"Several cities tried to — did, in fact, plant them — but a lot of them have suffered from encroachment by city development," she said.
"I think it was Winnipeg the trees had to be taken down because of the elm bark beetle."
Saskatoon's living memorial captured the mood of the country in the period that followed the struggles of the First World War, according to Sarjeant.
"There is a really nice quote from the Daily Phoenix at the time in 1923 which says, 'It's a beautiful avenue of trees which is a more fitting symbol than the traditional stone monument. It symbolizes the eternal victory of life over death, refreshing the eye and the soul of the grateful wayfarer.' I think that's very appropriate."
The trees along the way tell the stories of some who will be familiar to many, including Hugh Cairns — who won the Victoria Cross, the highest military honour awarded by the United Kingdom.
The walking tour happens this Saturday at 10:30 am CST at Woodlawn Cemetery.