Fallen finds its way to Mayerthorpe memorial
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Jul 23, 2008  |  Vote 0    0

Fallen finds its way to Mayerthorpe memorial

St. Marys Journal Argus

A creative outlet for sadness over the senseless killings of four Royal Canadian Mounted Police constables in Mayerthorpe, AB, has come full circle for a St. Marys artist.A stained glass sculpture created by Peter Rice shortly after the tragic events of Mar. 3, 2005 has found a permanent home in the tiny town's new memorial park dedicated not only to the "fallen four," as they have come to be known, but to all "peace officers," as the obelisk at the centre of the memorial.Rice, who teaches Grade 4 at Downie Central School, attended the opening ceremonies on July 4, which saw four life-size bronze statues of the four officers unveiled, as well as a visitors' centre, where his work now hangs, dedicated."It was very, very emotional," says Rice of the day's events, which also featured a march of over 200 RCMP officers and a comparable number of other enforcement officers on hand to recall the events of that day -- and, as the town's citizens have always wished,  discover the good that can come out of something so horrifying.The story of Rice's sculpture, called Fallen, followed a similar route. Rice, who has a friend in the RCMP, says he was greatly affected by the killing of the four officers by James Roszko during a stakeout."It makes you feel very vulnerable," he says. "It could have been your brother or your son."He adds that the design for the piece "came to me in a dream, or a vision...I was just guided to do it."Fallen is unique in Rice's body of work because it is abstract; he usually depicts Group of Seven-inspired scenes of nature via swirling stained glass, stone and metal. "When I built it, I had no idea it was going to be a memorial," he muses.Just because the piece is abstract doesn't mean it is without meaning. Aside from donating the sculpture, Rice says he also gave a plaque to explain the piece's features.Four metal maple leaves represent the four fallen officers, as do four large pieces of glass in the exact same shade of red as the RCMP serge uniforms; black curves within each of these pieces represent the uniform's cross-strap and belt, while the yellow beads represent the RCMP uniform's brass buttons."The only other piece (I've done) that has an emotional impact close to this was for my dad (who passed away in 2001)," Rice explains.After completing it, "I knew I wanted to share it with the people of Mayerthorpe," Rice recalls, and first tried getting through via e-mail, but the RCMP's security wouldn't allow the e-mail to be sent.He then located a telephone number for the RCMP in Alberta, and was quickly put in touch with Margaret Thibault, president of the Fallen Four Society, which formed soon after the killings to determine a suitable memorial."She just happened to be walking through the office," he recalls. "Everything just seemed to fall into place."Three years later, Fallen was flown out via RCMP -- thanks to Rice's friend -- and stored in a friend's Edmonton warehouse for three months. Rice himself flew out with his wife on July 2, and installed the piece in the visitors' centre in a window near doors leading to the  memorial statues."Everything just seemed to fall into place again," he says of the process to move the delicate piece halfway across the country. "And it's like it was made for that window."The visitor's centre also contains a video wall about the officers' lives, as well as children's artwork and letters to the officers and town, and a few other professional works of art. It will also be used as an information centre for tourists."It's a tremendous honour to have something in there," Rice says. "I was teary-eyed just carrying it into the building."At the end of the opening ceremonies, Rice says that all of the officers present milled around the park, and he was struck by the wide age range; the four officers killed were all so young (the oldest was 32; the youngest 25), Rice says. "You can't help but feel for those young men and their families."He also had the chance to speak to Const. Peter Schiemann's father. "We had an obvious connection," Rice says of the fallen constable, explaining that, aside from sharing the same first  name, the two also had fathers who served as religious ministers."I just wanted to talk to him and tell him what I did..." Rice says with tears in his eyes. At the end of the day, Rice says he went back into the visitors' centre "to see it one last time," before heading out on a camping trip with friends in the Rockies -- "a nice way to end such an emotional trip." But  just because the emotion-laden Fallen has found such a meaningful home doesn't mean the memories of that tragic day in the tiny town of Mayerthorpe will ever be forgotten -- for Rice, or for anyone else. 

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