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Legacy of Duke will live on

Cast in bronze, Duke the bear stands proudly. PHOTO: DARRELL NESBITT

The Town of Rossburn’s week-long centennial celebrations this year were full of events, including the official unveiling of a bronze statue in memory of a special black bear named Duke.

Memory Park is now home to the statue brought forth through the talents of Wellesly, Ontario artist Ruth Abernethy, who has family in the Russell area.

“Upon the project being carried out, I found one thing — everyone loved your bear,” Abernethy said at the official unveiling in July. “Congratulations on its success story, and it will indeed be a special attraction in your spectacular Memory Garden.”

Richard Dupuis, acting superintendent of Parks Canada, told the people attending the unveiling that a famous black bear named Duke lived for 15 years within Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP), basically in the backyard of the Town and RM of Rossburn. He was killed in 1992, solely for his gallbladder.

“Our lives are enriched by bears and the RMNP is a very rich environment for black bears,” Dupuis said. “By bringing forth this magnificent creation, it truly shows that Rossburn is supportive of wildlife in its area.”

Ongoing since 2008, the project received generous support from local donors Walter and Adele Mychasiw of Vista, who paid for the bronze statue in memory of their ancestors of the Mychasiw and Trakalo families.

“We wanted to remember our family — past, present and future — in a special fashion and upon receiving permission from Parks Canada, the creation of Duke was initiated,” said Adele. “We didn’t want an angry-looking bear, but a bear with an inquisitive look, which we welcome today.”

The project was backed by the Rossburn Subdivision Trail Association (RSTA), Parkland Tourism and a dedicated committee. The RSTA took on the co-ordination of the project while the RM and town helped cover the cost of setup and landscaping.

Situated in a natural setting, the tribute to Duke, one of the area’s largest, most beloved black bears that tipped the scales at over 800 pounds, will truly uplift Rossburn’s black bear theme.

Located in the front right corner of the park on Victoria Ave. E., the statue and stone telling the story of this famous bear is a beautiful creation. It will definitely represent what national parks are all about.

Duke, standing proudly in a natural setting, will truly be a tourist attraction. A vision to honour family ancestors, the life-size statue will highlight the importance of Duke to the community of Rossburn.

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