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Estevan woman's effort to pay tribute to veterans creates some extra attention

An Estevan woman has gained attention for a recent effort to pay tribute to Canada’s veterans, and she hopes others will follow suit.

An Estevan woman has gained attention for a recent effort to pay tribute to Canada’s veterans, and she hopes others will follow suit.

Marlys Collins posed in front of the Estevan Soldiers’ Tree monument for the Canadian Remembrance Torch initiative, a virtual project that has encouraged people across the country to pose in an area meaningful to them while holding a torch, real or otherwise, in honour of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

Her father Edward Mack was a member of the Saskatchewan Light Infantry in the Canadian Army during the war. He served from 1943-1945 and was among those who participated in the liberation of the Netherlands.

Collins tends to the flowers at the Soldier’s Tree Monument site in central Estevan.

“It gives me some peace being there. I feel the presence of dad with me. He was also a big green thumb, so that helps,” said Collins.

After she shared the photo of her holding the torch on Facebook, it received more than 3,000 views by the next day, and has now been seen more than 8,000 times.

Collins is pleased that the Soldier’s Tree is receiving more attention. Carved by Alberta chainsaw sculptor Darren Jones, it was dedicated during a large ceremony in 2016 and has often drawn the attention of visitors to the community.

But Collins wants as many people to know about the monument as possible, so she took her photo there, as opposed to a site like a canola field, which was her initial instinct.

“I’m shocked with the reaction it received,” she said.

The torch initiative actually started with another event, called the In our Father’s Footsteps (IOFF) Pilgrimage that was to happen in May in the Netherlands, in honour of the 75th anniversary of Canadian soldiers liberating the nation from German occupation at the end of the war.

Collins and her husband Mike were the only ones from Estevan who were going to participate in the walk, and there were only a few others from Saskatchewan who registered.

“Dad never talked about any of the things he saw or did, but you have a good idea. That’s why this In Our Father’s Footsteps Walk was so important to me, because it would give me the chance to at least have a feeling of what it was like from just being there,” she said.

She and the other participants would have traced the steps taken by Canadian soldiers with a 60-kilometre walk over three days, and it would have taken them on the actual path of the soldiers who were part of the battles.

“We were to do all of the celebrations that were going to be going on there, and doing all of the cemeteries. We were taking a torch with us. It was being lit in Ottawa, and then it was supposed to come with us to The Netherlands,” she said.

There would have been a tour guide with lots of information as well.

But COVID-19 snuffed out those plans. They hope to do it next year, but that’s not a guarantee, either.

“There was actually 155 Canadian people that were going to attend, including several war veterans who were going to go,” said Collins.

Karen Hunter, who organized In Our Father’s Footsteps, came up with the Remembrance Torch idea.

Collins said Hunter is hoping that as many people from across the country as possible will light a torch and send it into the Canadian Remembrance Torch website or Facebook page, and then on Remembrance Day, the photos will be featured at a ceremony in Ottawa.

“I’d like to challenge as many people as possible to get out there and do that, not just in Western Canada, but especially in Estevan and area,” she said.

The goal is to have 75 people from across the country take a picture in honour of the 75th anniversary of the war’s conclusion, but Collins hopes 75 people from Estevan alone will try it.

The photo can be taken anywhere – a special spot in the backyard, in front of a farmer’s field or elsewhere. And the torch can be made anything. Collins purchased a nice torch that looks like a real flame, but people can use cardboard or another material.

“I really encourage the parents of younger children to get them involved, because we need our younger children to carry this torch on. So that’s what I want to see come of it.”

People are also asked to include who they’re recognizing with the torch.

Collins said Canadians can’t allow COVID-19 to stop the remembrance of what the members of the Canadian Forces did during combat missions to grant Canadians the freedoms enjoyed today. She’s concerned whether there will be services in November to mark Remembrance Day, so other efforts need to happen.

For more information, visit or visit the Facebook page. Photos can also be sent to The Canadian Remembrance Torch, care of Karen Hunter, 24 Cambridge Street, Guelph, Ontario, N1H 2T8.

The deadline to submit a photo is Oct. 15.