School park dedicated to Scott Vernelli

Posted by CoryCruise on June 5, 2011 | No comments


By Brian Kelly, Sault Star


Play was the thing for Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli when he was a youngster.

The Sault Ste. Marie man, killed in action in Afghanistan in March 2009 when an improvised explosive device detonated, relished being outside at school playgrounds and Bellevue Park.

Queen Elizabeth public school dedicated its new playground to Vernelli’s memory Saturday.

The White Pines collegiate graduate spoke to students at the Elizabeth Street school when he returned home on leave.

“All he wanted to do was relate to them how different it was here…and how fortunate the kids are,” his father, Chuck, said in an interview.

“He wanted kids to go to school.”

Two months after his death, Queen Elizabeth students decided to name its new playground after Vernelli “to honour his dedication to protecting others,” a release said.

Fundraisers, including barbecues, garage sale, fashion show and donations collected during an exhibition of the The Travelling Flag in December at the Pine Street Armoury helped raise more than $55,000 for the project.

“At least 100” people helped with playground construction that began late last week, said school principal Debbie Kent.

“It’s really been a group effort here,” she said.

The school, opened in 1947, has 214 students from kindergarten to Grade 8.

The bright purple, red, blue and yellow equipment includes slides and climbing apparatus on a gravel base. Youngsters, some wearing purple QE Royals T-shirts, christened the equipment shortly after the service ended on a sunny, muggy afternoon.

“That’s one thing Scotty would really appreciate – to see those kids being able to play on those apparatus,” said Vernelli.

“He’d be looking down from heaven and saying, ‘That’s exactly what I wanted the kids to enjoy.'”

Five members of 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, including three soldiers who served with Vernelli in November company, travelled from Canadian Forces Base Petawawa to attend the dedication.

They joined local military participants from 49th Field Regiment, 33 Service Battalion, Northern Ontario Area Support Unit and Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre in site construction.

“Master Cpl. Vernelli embodies the warrior spirit and will forever be immortalized as a true Canadian hero,” said Corp. Jesse Obee, reading from a plaque presented to Vernelli’s family.

Obee served with Vernelli in Afghanistan and escorted the remains of Cpl. Tyler Crooks, who died in the same blast.

A portrait of Vernelli, by a Mississauga artist, was also presented to his parents, Chuck and Ruth, and brother Sean and his family. Obee asked the family to consider donating the work to the school “and hang it very proudly” on behalf of November Company.

“We just want the children to have all the fun that he had when he grew up and they become good, healthy Canadians and enjoy the country that we have,” said Chuck Vernelli during the ceremony.

“Without our military, our country would not be the way it is.”

The playground project includes a landscaped area with a plaque noting The Scott Vernelli Playground. An inscription notes the father of one “gave his life in service to Canada while helping to improve the quality of life of families in Afghanistan.”

Cory Cruise, a St. Catharines-based musician, performed his song, In Loving Memory. It’s dedicated to the memory of Vernelli and Crooks.

Vernelli was the first Sault resident to be killed in action since the Korean War.

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