Piet Teunissen has this idea to build a bell tower in Victoria Park. He presented it to the Dutch Canadian Club in London where some of his colleagues had a better idea - why not a carillon?
And so it came to be, says an excited Mr. Teunissen. A collaborative effort on the part of the 15,000 members of the Dutch and Belgium communities in London will rise as a new monument in Victoria Park this summer.
The 18-bell Liberation Carillon - which honours Canadians who liberated Holland and parts of Belgium during World War Two - should be completely installed by Sept. 17 and will play a role in Remembrance Day services in November.
While it was Mr. Teunissen's idea originally, creating and now paying for the carillon has been a labour of love for his community.
"It was last year when we were working on the May 5, 60th Anniversary of the Holland Liberation ceremony," Mr. Teunissen says. "I proposed it and the committee said go ahead and do it.
"From there, I did different designs and ideas. I presented it to Jan Maarschalkerweerd and he said he'd make it. We had the 500 members of the Dutch Club for lunch and they began to make suggestions for the carillon so it would play music. I started to get people together and formed a committee."
Maarschalkerweerd is owner of Abuma Manufacturing, a London-based metal fabrication company, and former chairperson of the committee. He stepped down to maintain the integrity of the process.
"Both the design and the location are approved and the bells are ordered. There is no stopping this project. I am reviewing the scope of the work. I would love to make it. I have to step down to allow them to review the commercial bids. We want to do everything by the book. I am now a resource to the committee, "Mr. Maarschalkerweerd says. "I said I want them to go out for bids and that we get the best deal. We are trying to install it Sept. 1. The only thing that could hold it up is the arrival of the bells. The committee members are very dedicated. They have donated a lot of money and donations in-kind."
Harry Coumans is another central figure on the team. He's taken on the role of raising funds to purchase and install the carillon and monument. He was there when Hitler's troops invaded and when the Canadian's liberated Holland.
"In the fall of 1944 the south of Holland was liberated. The northern area was liberated by Canadians in the spring of 1945. They brought liberty and food. More than 7,600 Canadians died in the nine-month campaign to liberate the Netherlands," he says.
Their appreciation for the loss of Canadian lives, their freedom from Nazi oppression, a sense of history and a sense of the present all are contributing emotions to the rationale for the gift.
"Originally it was to be one bell, the carillon started in the low countries of Holland and Belgium in the Middle Ages," Mr. Coumans says. "There is a link with the veterans and the military but it can work for SunFest, children's music or at Christmas. It's a real addition to London's culture. It's something quite unique in Canada."
The carillon bells are rung by a computer which can be programmed to play hundreds of pieces of music.
Maarschalkerweerd reiterates the carillon's importance as a living memorial, "Now that the Second World War is almost forgotten, it's also a little support for our troops in Afghanistan."
A campaign to raise funds to complete the project has started - and is gaining strong support in the Dutch community. Mr. Teunissen retells the story of "a grandmother who called and said, 'I was liberated. I have 10 grandchildren'. She wanted to donate $100 for each of them."
These are the types of donations the group is looking for rather than one or two large offerings so that it truly represents a gift from all the Dutch and Belgium communities.
"We're looking for about $150,000 and we have a number of organizations who will work on this free of charge. We have collected close to $25,000 in cash plus lots of in-kind work. This is the start of our campaign," Mr. Coumans says.
"It is the intention to have a large portion of the Dutch community contribute rather than a few from large contributors. We want $20 to $30 from each member so it can be a true gift from the Dutch community. A large portion of the Dutch community are now second generation. We're putting together a list of individuals, churches, farm organizations and Dutch businesses."
The memorial, in addition to the 18 brass bell carillon that will be mounted on a stainless steel pole, will have two sections of solid granite. The first is a black V upon which the word victory is inscribed and a grey rectangle with dedication text from the Dutch community.
Gerard Pas, a local yet internationally recognized artist, was brought in to help conceptualize and design the monument so that it corresponded and interacted with the other elements in Victoria Park.
"I brought my expertise on how we could respond to the site. It's focused on a particular theme, to thank the veterans. That impacted on me. I had to work within the scope of the project. I saw the cenotaph as a woman and I wanted our work to decorate it like a fine string of pearls," Mr. Pas says. "Originally I redesigned the base and they asked me to redesign the bell tower. The rings were my responsibility. We are doing it in stainless steel. With the original spiral design we had to roll it in section and then weld it together. Consulting with the engineers I changed it to rings. They're kind of like ripples in a pond. The gifts that Canadians gave with their lives are like ripples in the pond."
Its design and location is important in relation to the cenotaph and memorial garden.
"I want it to be a fulcrum that points to the cenotaph. It's a nice location being near the garden. The garden will retain its own autonomy but will be a pleasant addition. I see it as gratitude to all the Canadian Armed Forces," Mr. Pas says.
IF YOU WANT TO GIVE
- To donate to the Liberation Carillon in Victoria Park, make your tax-deductible cheques payable to The Royal Canadian Regiment Trust, reference Veterans Memorial, and mail to Veterans Memorial Fund, 118 Woodrow Cres., London, N6E 1E8.
- For more information http://www.veteransmemorial.ca/. To see the artistic process utilized by designer Gerard Pas visit