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Arcola Remembers pays tribute to those who served

Scott Paton has always taken a keen interest in military history. It started with an uncle who enlisted in 1986, which Paton describes as a formative time in his life.

ARCOLA, SASK. — Scott Paton has always taken a keen interest in military history. It started with an uncle who enlisted in 1986, which Paton describes as a formative time in his life.

"He became my hero, and ever since then I've had a keen interest in everything military history related, and it just spawned and morphed from there into collecting military memorabilia to reading everything that I can get my hands on about Canadian military history," Paton said in an interview with the Mercury and SaskToday.

An extension of that is Arcola Remembers, which was launched by Paton and his wife Renee Pylypuk in an effort to pay tribute to people from Arcola who served their country. They created a video for the Arcola Remembrance Day service in 2016 and it has grown from there.

Paton admits the concept blossomed too late because Arcola doesn't have any more veterans but the couple can keep the memory of the soldiers alive. Their website lists the people from the Arcola, Kisbey and Willmar areas, along with the Pheasant Rump First Nations, who died while serving their country. Forty-one are from the First World War and 29 are from the Second World War.

Arcola Remembers also organizes the Remembrance Day ceremony for the town each year.  

"Through that, we've had the great fortune to explore different avenues of how to commemorate Remembrance Day," said Paton. "One of the things that we've done is to create some video tributes, or educational-type videos about local veterans and their stories, and we're quite proud of those. There are a number of them that are on the website."

Arcola Remembers also took the initiative to have the cenotaph in Arcola restored this past spring. It included a full refurbishment of the bronze plaques commemorating those from Arcola who died in the First and Second World Wars, and the marble statue and the granite base. Paton called it a "tremendous success".

"It looks like a brand new monument, and he [the statue] can look over Main Street Arcola for the next 100 years," said Paton.

Arcola Remembers approached a company out of Regina that had done some work on the Estevan cenotaph.

"We removed the brass plaques and they did those off site, but the granite face and the marble statue atop that base were done on site, and the results were really fantastic."

The statue in particular had accumulated grime and more over the years, but now Paton believes the figure has returned to its original appearance.

 Feedback to Arcola Remembers and its efforts has been excellent, he said. People from the Arcola area have reached out to Paton and Pylypuk to find out how they might research somebody from their own family with a military past.

It takes a lot of time to complete the work, but they view it as a service to the community.

"One of the videos that we had created a few years ago was borne out of one of our veterans who was in a Lancaster Bomber when it was shot down over occupied Europe. As part of that, we travelled to the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon, and I took a flight in their training plane, the Harvard, and did some filming with that," said Paton.

"If you would include that kind of time invested and then Renee's time in actually cutting a video like that together, it's pretty significant. But it's time that we're more than willing and happy to spend in service to the memory of our veterans." 

Paton is also an avid military collector. His focus has been on Canadian military history, with an emphasis on Saskatchewan and the southeast region. In researching his own family and military exploits of extended family members, he learned he had an uncle, William Carnegie McKellar, who served with the South Saskatchewan Regiment during the Second World War and was awarded a medal for his actions during the Dieppe raid, as he took out a machine gun nest.

McKellar was wounded twice during the war, once at Dieppe and the other during the push to Cannes after the D-Day invasion in June 1944.

Learning about the history sparked his interest on the South Saskatchewan Regiment.

"I've got things from unit photographs to badges to uniforms, wedge caps, helmets, that sort of thing," he said.

Paton was born and raised in Arcola. He studied at the University of Regina and lived in Estevan for a short time with his wife. They moved back to Arcola around 2010.

Pylypuk is from Estevan originally and has a journalism degree from the university. She also worked as a summer intern with the Mercury.

"I couldn't do it without her. She has an active interest, but more importantly, perhaps are her skills that were picked up along the way," said Paton.

Through her background as a journalist, she has been able to curate the videos and the website, and she supports his keen interest in the stories and the artifacts.

"She helps with the Remembrance Day service as well," he said.

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