Founder And Director Of The Mural Project
Inspired by the death of her great-uncle in Italy during the Second World War, Karen Storwick Koonar has become passionate about the preservation of Canadian Military History, honouring Canadian veterans and raising awareness of their dedication and sacrifice.
As a freelance Historian, Fundraiser and Project Manager, she works both as a volunteer and on contract with the Military Museums in Calgary. She is the Founder and Director of the Mural of Honour at the Military Museums and, through the project, has raised over $650,000 for the Museum. Karen tours the virtual Mural of Honour through classrooms each year to teach students about 200 hundred years of Canadian history and the importance of Remembrance.
As well as her work at the Museum, Karen belongs to a group of historians, both Canadian and European, working toward the common goal of commemorating unmarked battlefields in Europe. As a volunteer, she assists in the coordination of annual Veteran’s Pilgrimages and Commemorative Ceremonies in Italy, producing plaques and fundraising to cover costs for the monuments. Since 2006 she has traveled with over 70 veterans and their families on these pilgrimages, coordinated 5 plaques and monuments honouring Canadians in Italy and partnered in the unveiling of 5 others with her Italian colleagues.
As an extension to the work she does in Italy, Karen has developed an educational study program and tour itinerary for athletic teams and school children to honour the personal stories of soldiers buried in Villanova and study the battlefields of the Italian Campaign.
In a continuing effort to preserve the experiences and memories of veterans, Karen has an ongoing Oral History project, having completed over 90 oral histories of Second World War and Korean War veterans that will be donated to the Museum archives for research.
In 2012 Karen was awarded the Veteran's Affairs Commendation Medal for her work in the development of the Mural of Honour and the preservation of Canadian history in Italy.
When not devoting her time to her interest in Military History, Karen immerses herself in her other passions; her family, her dogs and making music.
Content and Software Developer
Ian began his career as a geophysicist in seismic exploration and has been a web developer for many years.
In 2005, Ian met Karen Storwick after hearing about the Mural fundraising project for The Military Museums, and shortly thereafter purchased what turned out to be the 6th panel Karen sold. He dedicated this panel to his two great grand-uncles who served in the First World War.
After hearing about Karen’s ambitious plans for the interactive version of the Mural, he suggested that if she ever needed help on the project, he’d be willing to volunteer. That phone call came shortly afterwards, and in 2006, Ian took over as the primary content developer for the Mural Project.
Along with the other volunteers, Ian has considered this opportunity to be a privilege in helping to preserve the memories of selfless sacrifice of so many veterans and service personnel who have served our country.
His other passions include Military History and the mountains.
Marg was born and raised in London, Ontario and has lived there all of her life. Like most of the young girls at that time, she started work at London Life Insurance Company, intending to stay “just a year for experience”. Marg retired in 2006 after 42+ years; half of that time spent as an Executive Assistant – a role she thoroughly enjoyed.
Marg’s father, Albert Dorey, was a wireless operator/air gunner with the 431 Squadron of Bomber Command. He was KIA near the end of the Second World War. Marg’s Mother never talked about him and it wasn’t until her death in 1994 when Marg found a number of items related to her father, that her interest in the Air Force began to grow. Early in her marriage, and with her husband's encouragement, Marg visited his grave at the Becklingen War Cemetery in Germany while on a trip to Belgium in 1969.
By chance, Marg happened to see a tiny advertisement for a battlefield tour in November 2005 and jumped at the chance to go again. As it turned out, Ian Watson was also on that tour and in conversation, he mentioned the Bomber Command Memorial in Nanton, Alberta. He also mentioned the Mural project at The Military Museums in Calgary.
During her first trip to Calgary, Marg visited The Military Museums and became intrigued by the Mural. Marg has since sponsored two panels, one of which is in memory of her Father and the rest of the Lancaster crew that perished.
Proof reading had always been a great part of Marg’s work as an executive assistant and so she volunteered to help. The rest, as they say, is history. Marg became a full time volunteer with the Mural Project in 2008.
When Marg retired in 2006, she also started a project to build a database of all 431 Squadron members that had fallen and photograph their grave markers to submit to Veterans Affairs for their Virtual War Memorial. When she realized that there was a fallen soldier from London, Ontario also buried in Becklingen War Cemetery in Germany whose grave marker had not been photographed, the project changed course to cover all those buried in Belgium, northern France, southern Netherlands and a couple of cemeteries in Germany that were on the way to Becklingen.
Marg and her late husband traveled many times over the years to Belgium and she has become very comfortable there. Since then, she has taken thousands of photographs of grave markers which have been submitted to the Virtual War Memorial.
In addition to traveling and photography, Marg is also an accomplished and enthusiastic ballroom dancer.