Beloved Niagara Police sergeant remembered for ‘Elmer the Safety Elephant’ talks passes away


Published August 25, 2023 at 11:33 am

Former Niagara Police Sergeant Harry Artinian, a.k.a. "Sergeant Harry," closely associated with his Elmer the Safety Elephant talks at Niagara schools, passed away at age 93 on August 22.

It doesn’t matter where students went to school in Canada from the 1950s to 1990s, every region, town, or city had a police sergeant who came into the school and talked about Elmer the Safety Elephant’s rules for safety.

In Niagara Region, that was Sergeant Harry Artinian, a.k.a. “Sergeant Harry.” Yesterday, the Niagara Police passed along the news that Artinian had passed away at age 93 on August 22.

Yesterday, Niagara Police Chief Bryan MacCulloch posted, “Sergeant Harry Artinian was a legend throughout our community, attending schools across Niagara, accompanied by Elmer the Safety Elephant to educate youth about bicycle safety and other public safety issues.”

Likewise, Patrick McGilly, president of the Niagara Regional Police Association, said, “It is with great sadness that ⁦(the association) said goodbye to one of ⁦(our) greatest, most recognizable cops, Sergeant Harry Artinian. Sgt. Harry was the consummate Community Policing Officer loved by all he came in contact with.”

Artinian was born in St. Catharines on December 13, 1929, and like many young men of that era, he joined McKinnons/General Motors in 1947, staying 11 years before joining the Grantham (Niagara-on-the-Lake) Police Force in 1958 as a patrol officer.

“His strong abilities to connect with, build rapport, and influence individuals at all levels was quickly recognized and he began to build a highly successful and widely copied traffic safety program for children in all St.Catharines and Niagara Region schools,” said Artinian’s obituary.

“For the next 31 years, “Sgt Harry” and his sidekick Elmer the Safety Elephant worked to have children keep the rules top of mind and be able to return home safely to their parents.”

“He loved every aspect of his job and truly enjoyed teaching traffic safety, building safety-themed floats for the Grape & Wine Festival, writing scripts for his on-air segments on CHSC, holding bicycle rodeos and always looking for new ways to reach his audience.”

Artinian received many awards and recognition for his work including the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and culminating in the dedication of a children’s playground named in his honor in St. Catharines’ Montebello Park by City Council in 1989.

“He treasured his time spent with so many friends across the Region including the Armenian community and various organizations including the Masonic Lodge. He will miss his favorite parking space at the casino, too.”

A Visitation and Memorial Service will be held at George Darte Funeral Chapel on September 1 from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. A Memorial Service is to be held September 2 at 11 a.m.

Artinian was described as “a wonderful father who was always strong but carried his authoritative presence with a gentle, kind, and loving guidance.” Above is the plaque dedicated to him at St. Catharines’ Montebello Park.

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