Crosses commemorate the graves of veterans ahead of Remembrance Day at Royal Oak Burial Park. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Crosses commemorate the graves of veterans ahead of Remembrance Day at Royal Oak Burial Park. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Old Memorial Arena flagpole raised once again

Royal Oak Burial Park raises salvaged flagpole for Canada 150th Remembrance Day

Fifty-seven years after hockey legend Lester Patrick was buried at the Royal Oak Burial Park, the flagpole he once walked under at Victoria’s Memorial Arena has followed him.

With Remembrance Day approaching and it being Canada’s 150th anniversary, Royal Oak Burial Park director of operations Ilan Highton recalled ROBP’s former executive director had salvaged the pole from Memorial Arena’s 2003 demolition and stored it at the park.

Highton and co-worker Marty Shatzko uncovered the pole this year and refurbished it with a goal of having it in place for Remembrance Day.

On Oct. 31 the flagpole was erected at Royal Oak Burial Park adjacent to the Cross of Sacrifice, a war memorial which was placed at the entrance of the cemetery in 2004 by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Hundreds of veterans are honoured each year at ROBP with crosses and poppies over their graves.

The flagpole’s original home was Memorial Arena, which was constructed in 1949 and was named in honour of the Canadian soldiers killed during the Second World War.

“It seems fitting that the flag pole has found a home at Royal Oak Burial Park, next to the Cross of Sacrifice and the burial place of many soldiers and veterans,” Highton said.

Once upon a time, Lester Patrick, who invented many of the rule changes that shaped the current NHL, passed the flagpole installed above the doorway at Memorial Arena. From 1949 into the 1950s, in the twilight of his life, Patrick coached and managed the Victoria Cougars of the PCHL/WHL (an affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens) at Memorial Arena. Lester, Frank, their parents and siblings are all at the Royal Oal Burial Park.

It should be noted that the flagpole itself has been extended an additional three metres in height.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has done plenty of work at ROBP and also visits annually to ensure the monuments and graves are in good condition (not just here but at cemeteries across the country).

“I am extremely appreciative of our staff’s efforts to restore and find a home for this important piece of Victoria’s history and very proud to have the Canadian flag flying high at our entrance in time for Remembrance Day,” said Crystabelle Fobler, ROBP executive director.

reporter@saanichnews.com