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From banners to book, Toronto honors veterans

PRESERVED MEMORIES — The images of nearly 500 local veterans appear on banners flown above the streets of Toronto, and now everyone can get a closer look at them in a book commissioned by the veterans committee of the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization. Gathered at Toronto American Legion Post 86, which launched the banners, are, left photo, committee members seated, from left, George Wise, Greg Barto and Don Clarke; and standing, Toni Moreland and George Komar. Right photo, among nearly 500 Toronto veterans appearing on banners in the city are former Mayor Andrew Blaner, left, who served in World War II as a member of the Army Air Corps; and Toronto Lions charter president Ellsworth Graham, who served in the Navy during the war. -- Warren Scott

TORONTO — Flown above the streets of Toronto, more than 400 banners have served as a daily reminder of the hundreds of local residents who served their country in wartime and peace.

And now, thanks to a handful of volunteers and the support of more than 30 businesses, groups and citizens, the images of the veterans appearing on the flags have been collected in one book.

The idea came from George Wise, an Army Korean War veteran, who said he wasn’t able to read the information printed below their photos, and thought others also would appreciate a closer look at them.

The veterans committee of the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization got involved, soliciting contributions to defray costs for the books’ production and enlisted Margie Monigold of Expressions in Print to publish them.

George Komar, the coalition’s president, said the group wanted to recognize those who paved the way for the project, the volunteers behind the banners. As a result, the book is dedicated to the late John Watts who, as a trustee of Toronto American Legion Post 86 and member of Toronto Council, involved both groups in that effort, and Greg Barto, a fellow Legion member who collected the information and photos for them.

During several months in 2019, Barto scanned photos submitted by the families of hundreds of local veterans for submission to Harry and Tami Munson, a Castle Shannon, Pa., couple behind such flags in other communities.

He noted the photos were in black and white and color, dating from World War I to the Iraq War and the Global War on Terrorism in Afghanistan.

After the photos were scanned, Barto saw that they were returned to the families.

“It was a lot of running around, but it was all worth it,” he said.

When Barto announced the banner program would end this year, with any additions included in the book, he found himself back at the computer.

More than 70 veterans were added, bringing the total recognized in the book and on banners to 496 men and women. They include 263 who served in the Army, 106 in the Navy, 66 Marines, 59 Air Force veterans and two from the Coast Guard.

City crews are expected in the near future to hang the additional banners on utility poles, with the permission of the utility companies.

The committee acknowledged the cooperation of city officials and efforts of the following city personnel who raised the initial banners, often accompanied by Watts: Don Starkey, Stevie Hubbard, Bobby Holmes, Tom Nutter, Scotty Wickham, Mike Potenzini and Rod Henry.

Wise said of the book, “I am so pleased with how everything turned out, how the committee worked together and how the community supported it. It’s just a great community.”

Komar said the cost for each of the 86-page books is $13 each, which will be used solely to cover the remainder of their expense. They can be obtained at five locations, which should be called in advance to ensure copies are still available. They are: American Legion Post 86, (740) 537-9317; B&W Auto Repair, (740) 537-9562; Margaret’s Cafe, (740) 537-3671; the Toronto High School Alumni Association, (740) 537-9114; and the mayor’s office at the Toronto City Building, (740) 537-3743.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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