Lest we forget at Sunnybrook

The Sunnybrook Cenotaph on Bayview Avenue is an important part of remembrance.
The Sunnybrook Cenotaph on Bayview Avenue is an important part of remembrance.

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, besides being one of the major trauma hospitals in Canada, is the home to Canada’s largest veterans’ centre. Each year during Veterans’ Week, from November 5 to 11, Canadians remember and honour the brave individuals who served our country in the past, and recognize those who serve in uniform today.

The Sunnybrook Cenotaph on Bayview Avenue is an important part of the remembrance. As Sunnybrook staff explained: “The monument is a fixture in the hospital’s identity for passersby on Bayview and it features prominently in our wreath-laying ceremony during our Remembrance Day services each year.”

On November 11, veterans and their families attend a special Remembrance Day service in Warrior’s Hall. After the service, veterans, family members, healthcare professionals, volunteers and invited guests move outside for the laying of the memorial wreaths at the Sunnybrook Cenotaph. That part of the ceremony, which takes place a few minutes after 11 a.m. on that date, is open to the public.

Construction at cenotaph

Well, not the type of construction Leasiders tend to associate with the term, but rather its refurbishment and restoration. The work includes repointing of the concrete, installation of lighting features, a new ramp, and some general maintenance and cleanup. Most of the work will be completed by November 11, but not all. Resurfacing of the walkway is not expected to be completed, but temporary repairs will allow the ceremony to occur as usual.

The Cenotaph site includes more than just the Cenotaph; it’s part of a small park, bounded by limestone walls entered through a formal entrance between two high pillars. The classic design is enhanced by the one sculpture placed in the corner of the park: a headless woman 1.5m tall. John Warkentin, author of Creating Memory, says it’s “clearly a copy in white limestone of some ancient Greek sculpture.” A plaque dating from 1947 explains the origin of this sanctuary:

“Sunnybrook. These beautiful grounds, donated to the City of Toronto as a memorial park in honour of the late Joseph Kilgour, were, with the gracious consent and approval of the heirs to the Kilgour estate, conveyed to the Dominion Government in the hour of Canada’s crisis. To be used as a place of healing for those who sacrificed and suffered in the preservation of Canadian Freedom.”

To learn more of the story of the Kilgour Estate, and the beneficent Alice Kilgour, wife of Joseph Kilgour, and her magnificent donation, visit the Preface to the Leaside Walking Tour of Bayview Institutions (on the Leaside Life website).

Perhaps we may conclude that the Sunnybrook Cenotaph and its small formal park together remind us that “Lest We Forget” might apply to more than one kind of sacrifice and service to our country and fellow citizens.

About Geoff Kettel 221 Articles
Geoff Kettel is a community connector and advocate for “making places better”. He is currently Co-President of the Leaside Residents Association, Co-Chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents‘ Associations (FoNTRA), member of the Toronto Preservation Board and Past Chair of the North York Community Preservation Panel. He writes a monthly column on heritage and planning in Leaside Life.