… sixteen years ago, on June 6th 2003 the Juno Beach Centre opened in Normandy France.
Longtime Burlington resident and Juno Beach Veteran Garth Webb and his partner Lise Cooper spearheaded this project.
Now in 2019 the Juno Beach Centre is celebrating Juno 75!
Lise Cooper’s son, Don Cooper will be a special guest speaker at our Veterans’ Appreciation Dinner on Thursday, June 13th. Don is now President of the Burlington Juno Beach Association. He will speak on the Juno Beach Centre. Details here.
From the Juno Beach Centre website:
Known as the founder of the Juno Beach Centre, today Garth S. Webb represents the Canadian Second World War veterans and their families who have been the driving force behind the creation of the Juno Beach Centre. They had the vision and perseverance to create the memorial they longed for and to proudly pass the torch to the younger generations. Led by Garth Webb, they left their mark on the identity of the Juno Beach Centre.
Born in Midland, Ontario, Garth Webb spent his youth in Calgary, Alberta. In 1942, he joined the Royal Canadian Artillery serving in “C” Troop of the 14th Field Regiment.
On the morning of June 6, 1944, Lieutenant Garth Webb landed on Juno Beach in Normandy with the Canadian 14th Field, as part of the Allied forces. Despite experiencing significant losses on D-Day, his unit continued their advance over the months that followed though Northwestern Europe and eventually Germany in 1945.
After the war, Garth Webb returned to Canada and resumed his studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Upon graduation, he embarked on a successful career as a real estate broker and appraiser.
In June 1994, for the 50th anniversary of D-Day, he returned to the beaches of Normandy with many of the veterans from his unit. It was at this point that they realized there was not very much present for their children and grandchildren to see in commemoration of the Canadian involvement in the Second World War.
As a result, Garth Webb and his partner Lise Cooper spearheaded an initiative of Canadian Second World War veterans, widows and children of veterans to create and establish the Juno Beach Centre.
Garth Webb and the Juno Beach Centre Association (JBCA) dedicated themselves to promoting this cause and fundraised to build the Centre on land made available by the Town of Courseulles-sur-Mer thanks to former Mayor, Jean-Louis de Mourgues. On June 6, 2003, surrounded by hundreds of Canadian veterans and dignitaries, they celebrated the official opening and unveiling of this amazing accomplishment – a lasting tribute to the efforts and sacrifices of all Canadians during the Second World War.
After the opening of the Centre, Garth Webb continued to serve on the Board of Directors as President of the JBCA in Canada. Until his passing on May 8, 2012, Garth Webb worked tirelessly for the Juno Beach Centre.
In addition to his many commendations and military medals from the Second World War, Garth Webb was also the recipient of the Meritorious Service Cross. It was presented to him in 2003 by the Governor General of Canada for his part in the creation of the Juno Beach Centre. This prestigious award recognizes a deed or an activity that has been performed in an outstandingly professional manner, or with uncommonly high standards; the activity is often innovative, sets an example for others to follow, improves the quality of life of a community and brings considerable benefit or honour to Canada.
Garth Webb was also honoured by the French government in 2005 with the Legion of Honour medal. The National Order of the Legion of Honour is the highest decoration in France. Membership in the Legion of Honour is usually restricted to French nationals. Foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds, as Garth Webb has, sometimes receive the Legion of Honour.
Below is an article from the Burlington Post from 2010 when Burlington’s Juno Beach Centre Association office first opened.
‘Founding father’ of Juno Beach Centre opens association office
OPENING CEREMONY: Taking part in last week’s official opening of the new Juno Beach Centre Association office, located inside the existing Royal Canadian Legion Burlington Branch 60 at 828 Legion Rd., are, from left, Burlington MP Mike Wallace, Mayor Rick Goldring, Juno Beach veteran Garth Webb, whose efforts led to the opening of the Juno Beach Centre in France, Royal Canadian Legion Burlington Branch 60 President Matt MacPherson and Burlington MPP Joyce Savoline. – Dennis Smith – Special to Burlington Post
Garth Webb once helped Allied forces storm ashore on D-Day. Decades later, he led the fundraising charge for the Juno Beach Centre.
Now 92, Lt. Webb recalled overcoming obstacles to creating the museum in Normandy, which honours Canada’s Second World War effort.
“I think I have the highest rejection file in Canada,” said the Juno Beach Association president.
“Corporations like to spend money where people can go see how they spent it. That was not going to happen in France.”
Webb’s quip-filled speech was featured at a luncheon last Friday, hosted by Royal Canadian Legion Burlington Branch 60.
It was held to welcome the association to its new office at the legion.
Legion past-president Bob Richardson noted the association raised $10 million by the time Juno Beach Centre opened.
He called Webb ‘the founding father’ of the centre, which opened in France June 6, 2003, exactly 59 years after D-Day.
“Many of us thought the whole idea was a pipe dream,” said Richardson, “but Garth Webb is a man of great determination, remarkable ingenuity, persistence and old-fashioned hard work.”
The longtime Burlington resident and his partner Lise Cooper spearheaded the project after visiting Normandy many years ago.
“We quickly learned there was nothing to show our children or grandchildren about World War Two except for a few markers,” said Webb.
Walmart joined up and Webb flew to France to star in their Juno Beach Centre TV ad.
“We got to be famous and it was damned good for them,” he said.
Webb said project costs went from $2 million to $12 million eventually. Eventually, the federal and provincial governments donated, plus governments in France.
Webb said then-premier Ernie Eves promised $250,000 and crossed it out, upping Ontario’s donation to $1 million.
Webb groused about fake giant cheques at presentations, so then-Premier Gordon Campbell gave him a real $1 million cheque on behalf of British Columbia.
“It was scary. Lise carried it in her purse for two more days,” recalled Webb. “We figured it was glued to her.”
He said veterans and citizens donated more than $2 million, recognized through brick memorial kiosks at the centre.
“This thing wasn’t built by two or three rich governments,” said Webb. “It was all the people combined.”
He recalled the centre opening and a speech where he and Lise were to alternate lines in English and French.
“None of our friends said I made a good speech,” said Webb. “All they said was, ‘You missed a line.’ ”
Photos he showed included a large Canadian 25 Pounder field gun recently added to the centre’s exhibits.
“I was in the artillery and in charge of firing four of those,” said Webb.
There was a D-Day photo of him and two soldiers standing in a shelter which made the Calgary Herald’s front page.
Webb was an artillery man with the 14th Field Regiment during the invasion. “Ten guys from our regiment died on D-Day,” he said.
Thousands of Canadians participated in the massive D-Day battle, with many killed, wounded or taken prisoner at Juno Beach.
The invasion enabled the Allied forces to advance through continental Europe and liberate countries occupied by Nazi Germany.
The Juno Beach Centre at Courseulles-sur-Mer presents efforts of Canadians at various Second World War fronts, plus civilian contributions.
Nearly 60,000 people are expected to visit the museum in 2010.
The year-round facility hosts ceremonies, concerts, children’s activities, collections, temporary exhibits and more.
For more information about the centre and its memorial brick donation program, call 1-877-828-5866 or visit www.junobeach.org.