Written by Susan W. Smith
posted on July 13, 2014 12:25
All too often we pass over or under a highway bridge with a tribute name displayed on a sign. We rarely stop to think about who the person was or why the sign has been erected, but last month there were two new dedication signs placed on the bridges crossing over Highway 401 in Gananoque. The first was dedicated on June 6th and the second on June 20th; both pay tribute to fallen police officers from Gananoque.
The first overpass, on County Road 32, is dedicated in memory of Constable Henry (Hank) J. Harper, who joined the Ontario Provincial Police in 1954. He died when he was twenty-eight years old on Sept. 11, 1957. He was hit by a car while investigating a collision on the Thousand Islands Parkway, east of Gananoque.
Harper was well known in Gananoque, not only as a police officer, but also as a member of the Gananoque Canoe Club and an Olympian. He and fellow teammate, Gerry Covey placed seventh in the ‘48 Olympics held at Henley, England. He was survived by his wife and four young daughters.
The second bridge, located on Highway 2 at Gananoque’s exit 648 on Highway 401, is dedicated in memory of Corporal Randy Payne.
Cpl. Payne was killed in April 2006, with three other Canadian soldiers, while serving with the inaugural Military Police Close Protection Team, in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The G-Wagon he was travelling in, was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).
The tribute program is part of The Highway Memorial for Fallen Police Officers Act, approved by the Ontario Legislature in 2002. Over the past dozen years, Ontario has dedicated over 50 bridges and other highway structures across the province, in memory of police officers killed in the line of duty. The bridge dedicated in Cpl. Payne’s name is the first bridge named in honour of a fallen Canadian Armed Forces Military Police member.
The ceremony to honour Cpl. Payne was held at the Gananoque Legion building where Military Police Officers from across Canada, local law enforcement from the Gananoque Police, Ontario Provisional Police and the RCMP joined members of the Payne family and friends.
He, like Henry Harper, was also well known in the region. He grew up in Gananoque and played for the Islanders Hockey Team. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife and two children. His parents, David and Nancee Payne, as well as his brother, Chris Payne, were on hand for the dedication ceremony.
Canadian forces were initially deployed in Afghanistan in 2002 and Canadian soldiers remained in the country until March 2014, with the combat role ending in 2012; an undisclosed number of soldiers remained to then help train and mentor the Afghan National Army. In total, 158 Canadian soldiers died in the War in Afghanistan.
Tomorrow, when you pass over or under a highway bridge with a dedication name, stop and think of those men and women who, as the Act says, “… have courageously and unselfishly given their lives in the line of duty. Our debt to them can never be repaid.”
By Susan W. Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor, TI Life