December 15, 2013

Giving back to the community is a characteristic that is prevalent throughout each one of the nine chapters that make up Landscape Ontario.

Ottawa Chapter members have a long and impressive record of participating in many volunteer activities. One of the longest running is the Day of Tribute honouring members of the Canadian military and their families.

Since 2005, on the first Friday in November, Ottawa Chapter members have gathered in every type of weather condition to volunteer their time and materials to beautify the grounds at the National Military Cemetery at Beechwood in Ottawa.

Beechwood was designated a National Military Cemetery in 2001. The grounds include 8.29 acres as the final resting place for veterans who faithfully served their country in peace and war, at home and abroad, and making the supreme sacrifice on Canada’s behalf.

The Canadian Year of the Veteran took place in 2005 to teach, remember, honour, thank and celebrate veterans. This event motivated Sharon Rouette-Urquhart to undertake the creation of this unique Ottawa Chapter tradition.
Rouette-Urquhart of Green Unlimited contacted Ottawa Chapter members, and along with Chris Lemke and David Stewart, began the first of these events where Chapter members volunteered as their way of honouring the final resting place of many Canadian veterans and their families.

This year’s event took place on Nov. 1. While members volunteer their time, the continued support of associate members is crucial to the success of this event. Long-time supporters of this event include NorleansTechnologies. Owner Fred Minduik also served in the military and has close ties that continue in his business. Bradley’s Commercial Insurance has been a supporter of this and other Ottawa Chapter events.  

The day begins with a coffee and muffin break, sponsored by Bradley’s. Peter Knippel Nursery has provided perennials and shrubs for replacement to this event for many years. Plant Products and General Seed Company provide gypsum, fertilizer and seed for application.

Attending dignitaries this year included Chief Warrant Officer David Snyder from the Canadian Armed Forces; Harry Harsch, inspecting officer of horticulture, Canadian War Graves Commission; Warrant Officer Sylvain Pilotte; Corporal Steve Prevost from Department of National Defense and Roger Boult from Beechwood Cemetery.

Ottawa Chapter members who volunteered their time this year included Peter Smit and Sons, Weedman - Ottawa, Green Unlimited, Zone 5 Landscaping and Property Maintenance, Lafleur De La Capitale, Surgenor Truck Rental and Natural Impressions Landscaping and Geosynthetic Systems.

Every member who takes the time to volunteer in this event does so for entirely personal reasons. Many members have first-hand experience of being the child or sibling of a veteran of the Canadian military.

Ottawa Chapter members were joined by dignitaries and military officials for the 8th annual Day of Tribute.

Natural Impressions Landscaping owner Andrew Burgess, left, and Glen Beach pitch-in to help during Ottawa’s Day of Tribute.

Former warrant officer chairs Day of Tribute

By Martha Walsh
Ottawa Chapter Coordinator

Three years ago Pete Campbell, who has been employed with Geosynthetic Systems for 10 years, remembers reading the Landscape Ontario magazine article about the Ottawa Chapter Day of Tribute.

Campbell, who had been retired from the Armed Forces for 10 years, knew right away that he wanted to get involved any way that he could with this Ottawa Chapter event.

Pete Campbell retired as a Chief Warrant Officer in the Canadian military. He joined the Forces in 1974, a year after working in Montreal.  

Campbell’s military career included a year in Bosnia with the United Nations, a three-month tour in Bosnia with NATO, and a three-month tour in Iraq/Kuwait in 2002. He retired from the Canadian military in 2003.

The Ottawa Day of Tribute is Campbell’s first return to an event involving military participation since his retirement. He chose to participate because he felt it was a great opportunity for him to give back to the families and veterans and does so in their honour.

When the request went out in 2012 that a new chairperson was being sought for the event, he approached Geosynthetic Systems president Kelly Mulrooney-Coté to enquire if it was possible. He received resounding support from all the staff.  

Campbell’s commitment to the position of event chair is evident in all levels of planning. He took it upon himself to contact all the companies involved to introduce himself and to thank them for participating. He educated himself as to what the day involved: planning, activities of aerating, seeding and  spreading the gypsum, leaf blowing, and general clean up. Campbell also made a trip out to Beechwood to visit the site and meet with the staff there so that the correct amount of product and time would be allotted to the day’s activities.

Campbell has expressed that the amount of time and effort to organize the event has been a learning process, but that it is a lot less time consuming for him than for members who re-organize their schedules to volunteer their staff hours at a time when they are completing end-of-season work.

As part of this year’s event, Campbell made a quick estimate of man hours put in by participating members. If each company participates that day with five hours and had three volunteers in place, they are giving up the revenue on at least 15 man hours.

Campbell acknowledges that it is a personal choice to participate in the Ottawa Day of Tribute, which he takes very seriously. “Members are volunteering their time and their profits for an event they believe in. It makes me very proud to continue as chair of the event.”