The Irish Harp’s owner Jovie Joki is known for her fundraisers to help local causes, the most recent of which was the restoration of the cenotaph.
Thanks to a recent donation from the restaurant, the fundraiser for the joint project of the town and the Niagara-on-the-Lake branch of the Royal Canadian Legion has now reached its $80,500 target to tender the work that is required, sooner rather than later, to restore the cenotaph, which was celebrated for its 100-year history on Queen Street in June, 2022.
Joki says she enjoys the opportunities she has to help the community by holding fun events for patrons that allow her to contribute to many good causes. The cenotaph is an important landmark to the town, and a cause she could embrace easily. It needs to be cared for to remain the structure it is, she says. “I feel we have to keep it up.”
Peter Warrack, ex-military and ex-police, sits on the cenotaph committee, which is a partnership between the town, which owns the iconic landmark in its place on a municipal road, and the legion, which, as he says, "has an obvious interest in looking after the cenotaph," a memorial to local soldiers who did not return from the two World Wars.
The legion took on the responsibility of having its condition assessed on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. It began with extensive research by Willowbank School of Restoration Arts students, who produced a 40-page report detailing repairs that were needed immediately. It also emphasized the importance of ongoing maintenance once those repairs are completed
Although there was no cost associated with the work at that time, the committee launched a fundraiser to pay for it and to also establish a fund for ongoing maintenance.
Warrack, knowing the Irish Harp’s reputation for holding fun events that also raise money for community causes, recently approached Joki about the cenotaph.
“Literally within two days of reaching out to our local community Jovie and the Irish Harp pledged their support, and as can be seen delivered on their promise of support to this iconic town landmark. This is truly endearing and amazing.”
The restaurant held a raffle, offering weekly tickets for a chance to win an Irish Harp basket valued at more than $150, with a draw a week for four weeks, asking patrons to raise a pint honouring local war veterans as well as contributing to the restoration of the clock tower. The raffle raised $5,000 in a month.
That not only meant the committee reached its goal and the town could put out requests for proposals from companies to bid on the work, says Warrack, “but also allows a trust to be managed by the town for further maintenance. That money will be incorporated in the town’s budget.”
Now, he says, “it can live on in the community for hundreds more years.”
The report by Willowbank students, class of 2024, provides some insight into the work needed to restore the iconic landmark, and the priority of the repairs that need to be undertaken, says Warrack, and the town is following its recommendations. “That report is very important, very comprehensive, and informs the process and the work that needs to be done. And now that the town has the money to proceed.”
Although it’s possible to see some deterioration of the brick work from outside, the most immediate concern is related to water damage inside, he says.
The report lists 12 recommendations for work that should be carried out immediately, and other repairs also suggested that aren’t as urgent.
The cenotaph is an iconic landmark, says Warrack, and the only one in Canada to be on the main street in town, but also serves as “a poignant reminder of who came before us.”
As to its significance to residents, he adds, “anybody who loves this town should love the cenotaph.”
Donations can still be made to the cenotaph fund at the Virgil town hall at 1593 Four Mile Creek Rd., or the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 124 located at 410 King Street, via cash or cheque (made payable to the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake) or online at notl.com/recreation-events/community-initiatives-events.