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Almonte students prompt cenotaph change after discovering missing First World War veteran

Submitted by Upper Canada District School Board

A Remembrance Day Real-World Learning project that saw students visit a local cemetery to place stones on veterans’ graves uncovered a local soldier whose name is missing from the Almonte cenotaph.

Now, the Almonte Legion says they are looking to correct the mistake, after a persuasive presentation from R. Tait McKenzie Public School students.

Private George B. Monterville, an Almonte resident, boarded a ship to Europe on September 22, 1914, and spent the entire First World War overseas fighting for Canada. Monterville suffered a string of minor injuries and was exposed to gas several times during deployment, returning to Canada in 1919.

In 1920, Monterville was hospitalized with severe lung disease, passing away in June from war-related injuries. Although he is buried nearby in the Auld Kirk Cemetery, his name was never added to the Almonte cenotaph.

Four student representatives from the Grade 6 class, Nate Dlugosz, Emma Wiggins, Maya Brown and Ivy Hunt, made their pitch to members of the Royal Canadian Legion on March 12, advocating for their support in having Private Monterville’s name added to the Cenotaph.

“We decided that it’s not fair,” said Brown. “We all thought that we should make it right and make a difference. He sacrificed his life for our future, and we can’t let him be forgotten.”

“His name is in the Book of Remembrance at the Peace Tower in Ottawa,” said Wiggins. “It would make me feel happy if his name was added (to the cenotaph), not so much for me, but for George and his family.”

Master Warrant Officer Mike Wiggins and Grade 6 teacher, Jean Grant-Kearney, also spoke during the presentation.

In response, the Legion put forward a motion to correct the mistake and noted they already had discussions with a local mason to clean the cenotaph. The motion passed, with work expected to begin on the cenotaph at the end of April.

“You all got up and you spoke in front of a crowd of people, which is a difficult thing to do,” Grant-Kearney said. “You were amazing and what’s the result? George will finally be getting his name on the cenotaph. So be proud, be very proud of yourselves.”

An oversight, which occurred more than 100 years ago, will now be rectified, with Private George Monterville’s name permanently engraved in its rightful place amongst his comrades.

The students will be involved in a re-dedication ceremony of the cenotaph that will occur prior to the end of the 2023-24 school year.

Submitted by Upper Canada District School Board

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