Humberside was home: a neighbour’s tribute to those who died

I think it caught people’s attention, and maybe made them think about Remembrance Day just a little bit longer.
Claire Franceschetti commenting on her Remembrance Day project

Thirty-four simple wooden crosses honour some of the Humberside students who died in the World Wars.

They had lived down the street, around the corner, or maybe right next door. They were young Humbersiders who went off to two World Wars and didn’t come back. The local newspapers reported the losses—always mentioning their old school. Parents, loved ones, and friends absorbed the grief. Humberside Collegiate listed their names on memorials which still hang proudly in the entranceway.

The world moved on.

In 2017, living happily in the Humberside neighbourhood, but moved by the uneasy political climate of our times, Claire Franceschetti decided on a personal tribute to the young people who had fought and died. As a mother of three, aware that it is the young who go to war, Claire wanted to remind us of the freedom Canadians take for granted.

Within this binder—clippings with home addresses, parents’ names, mentions of school—poignant reminders of close neighbourhood connection.

Claire’s grandfather, James Madden, had been at Dunkirk with the British army in 1940. Her father knew some of the family stories of that time. There were many reasons for remembrance.

In Claire’s words, this is how the project evolved,

“I went to my local Home Depot where a helpful lumber clerk named Peter cut the scrap wood to appropriate lengths. With the “help” of my 10-year-old son, I painted the lumber, and then assembled the crosses, and attached a red poppy to each one…

… I went to Humberside Collegiate Institute and took pictures of the WWI and WWII memorial plaques with the HCI student names. From there, I used the Canadian Virtual War Memorial online search tool to find the soldiers’ details.

Where possible, I noted the soldiers’ home addresses… when I found that some of these soldiers lived right around the corner from me… it occurred to me that it would be really striking to include their home addresses (on the crosses) where possible.

Many of the names from the plaque did not lead to info on the Virtual War Memorial site, so I tried to pull the names that had some info. My selection of names was random. I printed off the details that I found, and included them in a binder for interested passersby to read.

The Little Free Library holds a binder of information about the students

The binder was housed in the Little Free Library that I had previously installed on my corner lot.

Finally, the installation took place on a sunny afternoon one week before Remembrance Day. My dad was happy to help me do this. In total, 34 crosses were installed. All in all, it was a good project.”

Groups of teacher-led students, mums with strollers, homeward-bound workers, and seniors with walkers were among the many who stopped to look at the memorial during For King and Country’s visit.

Thank you to Claire and her family for this one-of-a-kind tribute.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

2 thoughts on “Humberside was home: a neighbour’s tribute to those who died”