KAMLOOPS — Two simple white crosses with the names Chris Corrigan and Annie Shaw in black paint, distressed by years of snow, rain and heat stand next to Valleyview Drive. Once lovingly taken care of, the roadside memorials had become worn out, and last week a complete stranger decided he could no longer stand the state of disrepair.
An accident in 2002 took the life of two young people, Shaw and Corrigan, and though Gerry Desrochers never knew the pair nor any of their family, the tragic story of the two young people coupled with the near-death of his sister at the same spot a couple years later left him feeling attached to the memorial site.
“You don't get to pick and choose the things that catch us,” he says, “there was something about that one that seemed really tragic. I remember reading about it, really tragic.”
While Kamloops does not have any regulations or policies specifically dealing with roadside memorials they do fall under a bylaw requiring right of way permits in order to place anything along a roadside or sidewalk. CAO David Trawin says he has not had a complaint over roadside memorials over the past 10 years and because of the sensitive nature of the memorials city staff tend to leave them alone unless they are impeding on traffic.
Other cities have put timelines and size restrictions in place to deal with these memorials. In Kelowna a resident asked for council to impose an expiry date on these memorials in 2010 and while the city did not agree to an expiry date, a formal policy was put in place in 2011 explaining where one can be placed and that it must remain in good repair or face being removed by the transportation services manager.
Other larger cities like Winnipeg and Calgary have imposed one-year time limits on roadside memorials, offering the option to purchase a memorial band that would be placed at the nearest sign pole or suitable location. Contact information and a date are also required to help the cities keep a rein on the ever growing number of memorials.
The 11-year-old Corrigan/Shaw memorials, near the Valleyview Drive and TransCanada Highway interchange, always seemed to be taken care of and regularly had new bright flowers placed with the crosses. The last couple of years this seemed to stop happening, Desrochers notes, and after this winter he decided to take care of the memorials himself.
This week Desrochers picked up the crosses and left a note at the site and on Kijiji letting people know he planned on restoring them and then would return them to the site.
“I was worried about someone thinking they were taken away and calling the city upset over that, so I left a note.”
It took only a day before they were returned, fully restored with hand painted butterflies and flowers covering the white crosses. Desrochers says he and his wife tried to make them as much like the original crosses as possible.
Memorials serve a dual purpose in reminding people of what can happen and in remembering loved ones, Desrochers says, and though he has never done anything like this before seeing the crosses every day likely played a part in his desire to see it restored.
“You either get rid of them or you maintain them. It seemed like the right thing to do.”
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