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Ad Astra stones honour air force service: ‘a flower fades, a stone never’

An RCAF ensign among some of the Ad Astra stones at 8 Wing, CFB Trenton.

Around 10,000 “Ad Astra” memorial stones now line the shoulders of the walkways at the National Air Force Museum of Canada located at 8 Wing, Canadian Forces Base, Trenton.

Campbell Monument in Belleville has manufactured these granite stones since the inception of the program in January, 1996.  The individual stones measure 6 inches by 10 inches. All bear the engraved inscription “Ad Astra”, the Air Force Roundel, the name, hometown, province and years of birth and death (now or later) of the person honoured.

No ranks are shown on the stones but further details of a person’s service in the Royal Canadian Air Force, or service with any Allied Air Force are recorded in a museum register that also identifies the location of the stone in the air park.

Col. Cy Yarnell of Belleville, a retired RCAF pilot, was the originator of this highly successful program to honour those who have served and, at the same time, raise money for the museum.

Col. Yarnell explained how he came up with the name “Ad Astra Stones”. He recalled the time when, in 1948, the Second World War Canadian air force ace George “Buzz” Beurling was on his way to Israel to fly P-51s for the Israeli Air Force.

“Beurling landed in Rome on his way to Israel – I don’t know if he was flying or if he was a passenger – but the aircraft crashed on take-off and he was killed. He is buried in Tel Aviv. There, graves are often covered by granite slabs and during funeral services people would place pebbles or little stones on the slabs as a sign of respect.”

This is because, as they say, “a flower fades, a stone never,” said Col. Yarnell. “That is where I got the idea for calling our memorials Ad Astra Stones.”

The “ad astra” comes from the air force motto “Per Ardua Ad Astra” – through travail to the stars.

Purchase of these granite stones – dedicated each September at an annual service held at the Canadian Forces Base Trenton – as a personal memento or as a gift in memory of a loved one – may be made at the air force museum at CFB Trenton. An application form can also be found on line.
The stones are placed along the pathways at the RCAF Memorial Air Park, adjacent to the National Air Force Museum of Canada. The airpark displays many static aircraft as well as other cairns and memorials, many of them created by the Campbell Monument Company.

Many of the Ad Astra stones along the walkways commemorate or remember Prince Edward County residents who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, such as the late Don F. Lindsay, formerly of Northport.

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