26 names added to Sarnia cenotaph after 7 years of research

A retired high school teacher is responsible for 26 missing names getting added to a cenotaph in Sarnia, Ont. 

The retired high school teacher used old newspapers and microfiche to make the list

Engraving new names on the Sarnia cenotaph took place at the end of October. (Sarnia Memorial Restoration and Safety)

A retired high school teacher is responsible for 26 missing names of veterans getting added to a cenotaph in Sarnia, Ont. 

Tom Slater spent seven years looking for the names of people he suspected who had been forgotten. The cenotaph previously listed 264 people killed in service of the county in the wars in Korea and Afghanistan. 

As a high school teacher, Slater noticed a plaque outside one of the schools with the names of former students who had gone off to war and didn't come home. 

"I noticed [another school] didn't have a plaque," said Slater. "I thought 'Well we must have guys who went off and didn't come home,' so that got me thinking."

Slater was surprised to find out no comprehensive list existed. 

"Whether I went to city hall or the local legion or the library archives ... there was no record of service for fallen soldiers," said Slater. "The only record we had was the list of names as inscribed on the cenotaph."

So Slater got to work, using old newspaper and microfiche to put together a list.

"I discovered when [the wars ended] across the country there was no formal government or military organization submitting names or saying 'Okay you have to recognize your dead,'" said Slater. "It was just community members."

Starting in 2012, Slater tracked down 26 missing names, which were engraved on the cenotaph at the end of October.

Months-long process just on engraving end

It took months of work — hundreds of hours — to engrave the additional names on the cenotaph. 

Memorial Restorations, an Ontario company, led the project, bringing in an engraver called 'Hammy' from London, Ont. to do the actual work.

Before anything could be immortalized on stone though, the company went through at least five drafts of the design. 

"Five people, two to three months ... [We knew] we had to get this right," said Memorial Restorations president Tom Klaasen. "What happens we forgot one person? A lot of background work went in to making sure that this was 100 per cent."

Klaasen said as an organization it's "humbling" to work on a project of this scale. 

"Humbling that we're allowed to work on something like this," said Klaasen, who described his work as a passion, rather than a job. 

Memorial Restorations has also worked on cenotaphs in Chatham, Forest and Petrolia, as well as projects in private cemeteries. 

The names on the Sarnia cenotaph will be unveiled Nov. 11 at a Remembrance Day ceremony. 


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