Community members in Trenton are stepping up to ensure the Ad Astra stones that honour members of the Royal Canadian Air Force are maintained at the National Air Force Museum of Canada.
“I come here to visit it — my aunt comes up here and the kids come out here to look around, as do my grandkids,” says Duncan Armstrong, a volunteer in the cleanup efforts.
Armstrong, a Trenton resident, has visited his father’s Ad Astra stone at the museum many times over the years, and is now spearheading a community effort to maintain the grounds.
“Last Monday, a friend of mine who’s getting transferred to British Columbia came out to pay their respects to their dad and their grandfather’s stone, and didn’t realize that the place had been overgrown,” Armstrong says.
Like many in the area, Armstrong has family ties to the air force, and he wanted to rally a group of volunteers to ensure the Ad Astra stones look their best.
“You just talk to the people that are doing this, and they each have their own little story why they’re here,” he says.
“Some are just here purely volunteering and that’s really great, but others, again, have a relative, father, mother, whatever. That’s why they’re here.”
“My wife’s father’s stone is here, and we had cleaned it up a couple of weeks before,” adds Quinte West Coun. David O’Neil.
“And when Duncan put this forth, we were all for it.”
Not only do people have a personal connection to the monument, it brings a sense of community to Quinte West.
“It’s a showcase for the community and for the base, and why showcase something that doesn’t look pristine?” notes Bob Mitts, president of the Kinsmen Club of Trenton.
“With the help of all these volunteers, we’re going to make it look that way.”
Museum staff are encouraged by the turnout, and hope for its continuation.
As a “special interest activity,” it is not funded by the base, and maintains only a small staff.
“We’re civilian-run, but honestly, volunteer lead is a lot of how we do it,” says Hailey Graham, an employee of the museum.
“It’s a lot of volunteer help that keeps this whole place running. We couldn’t do half of what we do without them.”
There are more than 12,000 Ad Astra stones at the museum, and that number continues to grow annually.
That means this next generation of volunteers will be crucial for the maintenance of this meaningful tribute.