Every summer, Hay River volunteers spend a weekend tacking photos of citizens who have passed away to an outdoor “memory wall.”
This past weekend, an estimated 770 photos were hung along the fence across the service road from The Rooster – a significant increase on the original 320 photos when the project launched in 2013.
Brad Mapes, now the town's mayor, started the project for the town's Homecoming celebrations that year.
“There are a lot of people on the wall who put a lot of effort and time into our community. Big or small, they all played a part,” Mapes said of the people behind the wall's laminated black-and-white portraits.
“What the wall does is it gives the opportunity for people to recognize people who have passed away over the years,” he continued. Hay River citizens either request or give Mapes permission to include their family members on the wall.
Throughout July and into late August, said Mapes, it’s not uncommon to see 15 to 20 people standing in front of the wall looking through photos and reminiscing about loved ones.
“Thank you to the wonderful people of Hay River for making this memorial wall and putting the pictures up each summer. It is appreciated more than you know,” wrote Facebook user Paulette Schoenberger. Many other users chimed in with their own messages of gratitude.
Not only residents are drawn to the wall. Mapes said a tourist told him they spent two and a half hours looking at the portraits over the weekend.
The mayor hopes to find a permanent home for the photos, which are currently taken down at the end of each August and stored throughout the winter.