Home Grown Heroes exhibit opens

Sechelt Arts Festival

The Sechelt Arts Festival is offering a poignant exhibit about some of the 20th century’s most devastating international conflicts, and brings them closer to home. 

Home Grown Heroes; WWI and WW2, upstairs at the Seaside Centre in Sechelt from Friday Oct. 12 to Sunday Oct. 21, will feature memorabilia in photos, documents and other artifacts from Sunshine Coast residents who served in the First or Second World War. 

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The exhibit takes on an added significance as we observe a major anniversary next month. 

“When I realized it was going to be the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day [Nov. 11, 1918], I thought this would be an opportunity to try to tell more of the story of what it was all about, especially for children who will see the exhibit,” said festival co-producer Diana Robertson. 

“Because there is no museum in Sechelt, a lot of this information gets tucked away and never displayed to the public,” Robertson added. “I reached out to the Sechelt Archives, to the Pender Harbour Living History Society, the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives in Gibsons, and the shíshálh museum, Tems Swiya. All of them have contributed.” 

Among the artifacts are uniforms, mess kits, medals, bullets and even a First World War bugle. Black and white photos from as long as a century ago are accompanied by profiles of several who served in this country and in some of the wars’ most brutal battles. 

Among the stories are those of the Bell-Irving brothers of Vancouver, who spent summers in Sechelt, and whose sister, Isabel, later lived for a time with her own family in Gibsons. Isabel worked throughout the First World War, nursing the wounded at Lady Ridley’s Hospital in London. Her six brothers all served as well, and among them, earned nine awards for bravery. 

The exhibit also tells us about Robert Hackett, a survivor of the 1917 Battle of Passchendaele, in which more than 4,000 Canadians were killed and another 12,000 wounded. Hackett had enlisted in 1915, at the relatively ripe old age of 30, and was later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Hackett Park in Sechelt is named in his honour. 

Irvines Landing school teacher Mary Nixon joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War and helped keep an eye out for approaching danger from a radar installation in Newfoundland. 

Theirs are just some of the stories the exhibit will feature. 

“We’ve actually found it difficult to get information because it just doesn’t exist in one place,” Robertson said. “This exhibit will bring together information from all these different sources and put it all together, at least for 10 days.” 

Some memorabilia from Home Grown Heroes will get a bit of extended life over the next month, as they will be part of a Remembrance Day-related exhibit at the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives in Gibsons.

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