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Fort Macleod-raised artist restores veterans’ monuments

Ken Bourassa returned last week to the community that nurtured him on his way to becoming a professional artist.

The son of Harvey and the late Kaye Bourassa, Ken was in town to refurbish the veterans’ memorials in the town square.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to get some ot these important historical monuments back up to standard,” said Bourassa, who now lives in Vancouver, B.C.

Bourassa was raised in Fort Macleod and attended school here before studying at the Alberta College of Art and Design, where he earned the largest scholarship in Canada.

Bourassa has had a varied career as an artist.

He is primarily a painter but works in many other media. He produced commissioned pieces for corporations, ran his own gallery and framing shop and has taught art.

It was a chance meeting at the cemetery in Fort Macleod that led to Bourassa restoring the stone monuments last week.

The Bourassa family commissioned Ken to restore an old family headstone in the cemetery.

Bob Gunn happened to be at the cemetery while Bourassa was working on the headstone, and the two got to talking.

“We got to talking about a couple other projects that were needing to be done in the community,” Bourassa said.

The monuments in the town square next to the post office and outdoor pool were deteriorating, making it increasingly difficult to read the names of the veterans.

Gunn had approached several monument companies about restoration, with no success, so he was pleased when Bourassa said he could do the work.

Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 46 in Fort Macleod agreed to fund the work from the Poppy Fund.

Bourassa is now talking with the RCMP about restoring the headstones in the veterans field in Union Cemetery, many of which have been worn by the elements.

To restore the monuments in the town square last week, Bourassa employed a traditional technique developed in the United States.

Bourassa coated the monuments in molasses to mask the stone and then filled in the letters with a high quality paint.

When the molasses is removed the names of the veterans — which were fading into history like the battles they fought — now pop thanks to the black paint on the grey stone.

“What you’re left with is nice clean lettering,” Bourassa said.

Bourassa and Gunn also power-washed the monuments to remove the lichen and moss that had accumulated over the years.

“It’s quite a nice project,” Bourassa said.

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