Memorial Park might be Delta's oldest park and surely its most significant due to its cultural and heritage past.
In early times, the community frequented the park to watch the Ladner high school's baseball team and the senior men's box lacrosse compete in league action. The park is the site for the province's second oldest May Day celebrations enjoyed by generations. Now the park plays host to highly competitive fastball teams.
In 1919, the park was the vision of residents to establish a park and athletic grounds for the people of Delta. As part of the park, a monument to fallen soldiers from Delta was commissioned in remembrance of those who had perished in the First World War.
The Delta Memorial Park Association was formed to raise private funds. Four acres were purchased from the estate of William Ladner. Aptly named Memorial Park, the cenotaph was unveiled on May 22, 1921 by H.N. Rich, a noted Ladner businessman whose only son Sidney died on the battlefield at Ypres.
The unveiling took place amongst a large gathering of military, sombre families and respectful friends. The governments of Canada and Europe agreed to leave the bodies from the two world wars in dedicated gravesites where they lay.
Cenotaphs erected across the country became the grieving sites for families of lost soldiers.
In 1921, 27 names of Delta lads who died in the First World War were etched on the granite cenotaph. There is a story behind each of those names and the names added for those lost in the Second World War, Korea and Afghanistan.
Peter Broznitsky, a Ladner resident and First World War researcher, has stated, "When their names are no longer spoken, are they forgotten?" Fortunately, these memorials continue to be well attended by citizens paying respect to their memory.
Losing 27 young men from a small Delta population was a shock to the community. Broznitsky's research touches on Ladner lacrosse history, which has been written about in past columns. Six young men from the Westham Island Maple Leafs enlisted in the First World War. Four of them, Stanley Smith, Jack E. Falk, Geoffrey McCallum and Basil French, died in battle and their names are on the cenotaph.
It is but one of many stories as we approach the coming memorial service.
The remnants of the pear orchard from the "historic Ladner property" remain a backdrop to the ceremonial service. As a young boy, I made a few dollars in the annual harvesting of pears and delivered the daily newspaper to the storied Ladner home, which is long since demolished.
The volunteer association continued to operate the park and maintain the cenotaph until 1956. The property and the assets were turned over to the Corporation of Delta and in the care of the public works department.
In 1989, wheelchair access and steps were added to the cenotaph with funds and labour provided by Ladner Legion and its members.