At the north end of the easternmost pedestrian bridge linking two riverside parks in Edmonton, AB, a large rock bears a dedication plaque to the bridge’s namesake: Ainsworth Dyer was a man who loved his country and died to keep us free. We are all better for having known him. He was a mountain of a man who truly made your heart dance. He ran the race and ran it well.

Ainsworth Dyer knew his calling. By age six, he had already announced he would be a soldier when he grew up. As an adult, he explained that if he died in service, this was as it was meant to be, what God intended. Although he loved living and everything about it, he was willing to sacrifice his life for his calling.

Ainsworth was born in Montreal into a tight-knit family. He was a big person — 9 lbs. 11 oz. at birth, and 6’4” as an adult – and had a large personality. He was full of life, full of love, and full of joy. He was kind, faithful to his religious beliefs and principles, and according to his army colleagues, had an unparalleled strength of heart. He was charismatic, a natural leader, and determined. He had a loud and funny laugh, and a trademark sense of humour.

“Ains,” as he was known, was athletic. Running races was a passion and he often won. One time he broke his ankle mid-race. The injury prevented him from winning the contest, but sheer determination enabled him to finish it. He was also a great football player. The Regent Park, Toronto, high school he attended has named an annual award after him.

Ainsworth’s first experience protecting the public was during his teens, when he worked as a security guard. At age 18, he enrolled as an infantryman with the 48th Highlanders of Canada, and at 20, he transferred to the Regular Force. After completing Battle School in spring 1998, Cpl. Dyer was posted to the 3rd Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in Edmonton, AB. He developed into a mature and responsible soldier, while maintaining his sense of adventure. He conquered the skies and became a paratrooper. He also trained for the Mountain Man military fitness competition, which involves a canoe portage, a 31.6-km footrace, and a 10-km river paddle. In 2000 he was deployed as a rifleman to Bosnia-Herzegovina on the Canadian peacekeeping mission Operation Palladium. After serving there he was deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

While in Edmonton, Ainsworth met and fell in love with a young woman. They attended church together, where he was a favourite among the Sunday school children. Before shipping out to Afghanistan, Ains obtained permission from his sweetheart’s parents to marry her then proposed to her on bended knee on the then-unnamed footbridge that spans the broad North Saskatchewan River. She immediately accepted.

Instead of the planned joyous ceremony in fall 2002 upon Ainsworth’s return to Edmonton, a memorial dedication of the footbridge was held in April 2003, organized by his fiancée’s father. Since then, Ainsworth has been memorialized at that footbridge on each anniversary of the friendly-fire incident that felled him. As long as the bridge is there, his friends say, people will remember the fallen.

by Jeananne Kathol Kirwin

Portrait by Cindy Revell