Veterans Built the West Bench

by Deborah Pfeiffer – Castanet
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Photo: Contributed
Old article about veterans getting lots in West Bench.

In 1952, Eric Selby by the luck of a draw was the first veteran to choose a lot in West Bench, according to news reports of the day.

Now more than 60 years later, a tribute to him and all the veterans who made the community what it is today has been carefully constructed in a park named for Selby.

And on Saturday, June 15 the public is invited to view this special tribute to the men who returned from World War II eager to rebuild their lives in Canada all those decades ago.

“Veterans built that community from scratch developing the parks and water system,” said Mark Woods, community services manager with the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen. “So this tribute is to recognize all of them.”

The community overlooking Pentiction was essentially created under the Veterans’ Land Act, VLA, to provide housing and a source of agricultural income to those coming home from the war.

It was Sue Gibbons, the daughter of navy veteran Bob Jenkins, who set the wheels in motion in 2009 to provide the recognition.
Her father was the first person she ran it by and he was immediately receptive.

She then approached the Area F Parks Commission and the RDOS and pitched her idea.

They too thought it was a good project, and the Veterans’ Tribute in Selby Park came into being thanks to a grant from Veterans’ Affairs Canada.

“My mom and dad bought a lot and built when I was 4, so I am a product of the West Bench,” said Gibbons. “So I felt it would be fitting to honour our original veterans, who founded this community.”

The tribute includes a new wheelchair accessible ramp and stairs into the park, steel cut sculptures and a crush rock pathway leading to a gathering table, featuring a map of the original Veterans’ Land Act subdivision of 1952 and 1957.

On the day of the grand opening at the park, 2224 West Bench Drive, there will be a piping-in of neighbourhood veterans, a formal ribbon cutting ceremony, background on the idea for the tribute and a presentation to the park designers, architect Chris Allen, alongside Cal Meiklejohn.

Neighbours will be invited to share stories.

For Gibbons the day will be both exciting and bittersweet.

Bob Jenkins died at the age of 89 on May 4.

“This means a lot to me and the community,” she said. “Sadly, my father died before the grand opening.”