‘He loved our country beyond words’: Remembering Cambridge artist Dave Sopha

A local artist whose work touched on nationwide stories is being remembered for his love of Canada.

Dave Sopha passed away Sunday night after a battle with cancer.

“He loved our country beyond words,” said Sopha’s daughter Terri Sopha.

The Cambridge artist was best known for his ‘Portraits of Honour’ mural, which stretched 42 feet in length and featured the faces of 158 Canadian soldiers and first responders who died in Afghanistan.

Sopha’s daughter said her father’s respect for the military is what led him to begin the ambitious mural in 2018.

“He just wanted to honour them, he knew he could. Of course, we didn’t expect it to be on the scale that it is. My father, he was little, but he did everything on a big scale.”

Sopha spoke to CTV Kitchener about the mural in November 2019.

“You put a face to their name, no longer is it a name on a granite slab, there’s a face to that name,” said Sohpa.

The mural is also filled with other hidden details including poppy petals, which recognize all the lives lost in the war.

Sopha spent more than 10,000 hours painting the piece, which toured across the country to the hometowns of fallen soldiers before making its way back to Cambridge.

“Sometimes he would open the studio if some veterans just wanted to come and see their friends on the painting, or just wanted to come and have a peaceful place to be,” said Sopha’s daughter.

Apart from his well-known mural, Sopha also painted first responders who lost their lives in the line of duty. He often gifted these pieces to their loved ones.

“There was no one that was more respectful, passionate and caring for these families,” said Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry. “Dave gave so much of himself to others and not only helped us find our community pride, but he really embodied the spirit of community giving.”

“Nobody commissioned him to do this, nobody asked him. He saw the need to remember and recognize and he did that,” said Cambridge MP Bryan May.

Sopha’s family said they are heartbroken, but grateful for the community support.

“It really is truly an amazing thing to see how loved my father was,” said Sopha’s daughter.

Sopha’s daughter said she will continue with his projects just as he asked her to do.