From a simple initiative to help Hay Riverites remember loved ones for people returning to the town for Homecoming in 2013, the memory wall has just about tripled in size.
Brad Mapes, the man largely responsible for the outdoor wall of photographs of late residents said the first year, he was overwhelmed by the total of 197 pictures. This year that number is closer to 600.
“It’s a great place to pay respects to people who have spent so much time helping and building this community,” he told The Hub. “What’s great about it is that everyone has different thoughts about the people on it. A story that someone has about one of the people will be different than one I know, or anyone else.”
Mapes credits other people with making the wall a reality for the third year, especially Wally Schumann, whose shop printed the photos. Mapes joked that Schumann’s employees must know everyone who ever lived and died in Hay River by now.
“We’re really grateful for all the support we’ve had,” he said. “Everyone who has contributed photos of their loved ones, everyone who has helped out.”
The plan is to keep the wall up into August, something that should be easier this year with a newly added weather coating to the prints.
Mapes said he knows there are several large family reunions coming up this summer and wanted to keep the photos up for them. The wall’s fate after that is less certain.
“I want to figure out a plan for the future here,” he said, adding that the property on the corner next to The Rooster that currently plays host to the wall will be developed at some point. “I want to find them somewhere permanent. It’s a good thing for the community to have somewhere to go and remember and tell stories.”
Mapes said, through the process, he has learned more of those stories than he had ever anticipated.
“Even the people I didn’t know too much about, through this, I’ve learned more about them and our community,” he said.