This cabinet in PSC’s Hall of Valour, built by Dustin Sjedl, features a spent shell case, acquisitioned by MP Blaine Calkins, formed into a poppy by Morskate Manufacturing. Photo by Emily Jaycox

Ponoka Secondary Campus honours fallen soldiers year-round

For Ponoka Secondary Campus (PSC) remembrance is observed 174 days a year.

It’s the school’s tradition to read one name of a fallen soldier from the Ponoka area every school day at 11 a.m. from the school’s Book of Remembrance, and then observe a minute of silence.

The book, made last year as a student’s special project, contains all 74 of the names of the fallen from the Ponoka cenotaph.

Every year, during the school’s Remembrance Day assembly, another name is honoured with a commemorative bronze plaque and inducted into the school’s infamous Hall of Valour.

This year’s inductee is Ernest Albert Riley. Riley, born on Jan. 10, 1915, in Lacombe, is thought to have perished on Aug. 15, 1944 in Normandy, after coming under fire while digging trenches, according to research done by PSC students.

His bronze plaque was not ready in time for the school’s ceremony Nov. 6 but will soon join the collections of remembrance in the Hall of Valour.

READ MORE: Ernest Albert Riley of Lacombe was likely killed by mortar fire in Normandy

The school’s ultimate goal is to have commemorative plaques made for all 74 soldiers, and they are close, with about 60 completed.

Remembrance of those who gave their lives in the service of Canada and hope for peace is a big part of the school’s culture, exemplified by the Hall of Valour.

READ MORE: Broncs World Tour brings remembrance to the forefront

The double doors leading into the hallway features “Lest We Forget” on the left and “We Will Remember” on the right, replete with etchings of poppies.

Those entering the hall are asked to show their respect by removing head gear and refrain from using cell phones.

Within lies a labour of love — a collection of art work, commemorative plaques, artifacts and framed tombstone rubbings.

The left side of the hall is dedicated to WWI and the right, WWII.

Each classroom in the hall is named after a battle in which Ponoka-area residents made a significant contribution, such as Vimmy Ridge, Passchendaele, Flanders, Juno Beach and The Somme.

A stunning piece by Kianna Green is a replica of the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge memorial, using 11,285 names to create the illustration. In 2017, PSC gifted 80 copies of the artwork to other schools in Canada.

A particularly inspiring installment in the hall is a cabinet display case, made by Dustin Sjedl and unveiled in 2017 for the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge.

The cabinet, made of Canadian maple and cherry wood, features a repurposed, spent shell case, formed and cut into the petals of a poppy by Morskate Manufacturing, with the firing pin as the centre of the flower. The display is lit by 100 LED lights.

The bottom of the cabinet showcases a variety of artifacts, some belonging to student’s relatives.

This year, a new cabinet will be added, made by Grade 12 student Koen Huijssoon, to house the Book of Remembrance.

There is a framed poster of the military members who lost their lives in the Afghanistan mission as well.

The hall also features a flat screen T.V., dubbed the “Valour Channel,” that displays student research projects.

The Hall of Valour started when the school was renovated. the collection began informally in 2007 and officially in 2009.

When the school’s renovations were completed it was also completely remodelled, to an open floor plan unprecedented in public schools.

READ MORE: Phase 3 renovations receive green light from province

This new school design has garnered a lot of attention and visitors over the years, which incidentally has also gained a lot of exposure for, and interest in, the Hall of Valour, according to PSC teacher Ron Labrie.

There has been a lot of interest in what the school is doing with remembrance, and other schools across Canada have adopted some of PSC’s practices.

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Ernest Albert Riley, Jan. 10, 1915 - Aug. 15, 1944, is Ponoka Secondary Campus’ inductee this year into the Hall of Valour. File photo

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