A Monumental Achievement


World War II MemorialThis is how it’s done.

If you take on a worthy cause and through persistence and hard work, you create something of value, the public will turn out in droves to support you.

Wakefield’s World War II Memorial Committee could teach the “Occupy” organizers a thing or two.

About a thousand people packed Veterans’ Memorial Common on Veterans’ Day last Friday to witness the unveiling and dedication of the new World War II Monument. Many of them were the children or grandchildren of the servicemen who in their teens and twenties left their cozy hometown of Wakefield 70 years ago to fight and defeat ruthless dictators thousands of miles away. In those days, they understood that you don’t wait around for evil to arrive on your own doorstep.

Phyllis HullPhyllis Hull, Chairman of the World War II Memorial Committee, was justifiably proud last Friday as the tarp was removed and the new monument was unveiled.

“Several years ago, I was approached by two World War II veterans about the poor condition of the old World War II monument,” Hull told the crowd. “They wanted to know if the town could supply them with some paint or wood and that they would be willing to do some repair work.”

A selectman at the time, Hull relayed the veterans’ concerns to the full board. They authorized her to form a committee. The committee concluded that time and the elements had caused too much damage for the old monument to be repaired, and recommended building a new memorial.

In May of 2009, the Committee began fundraising, knowing that it would take about $200,000 to build a fitting granite memorial. They accomplished it in 2½ years. If any other local group has raised that much money from private donations in such a short amount of time, I have yet to hear of them.

The pavers for the Veterans’ Walk of Remembrance provided the lion’s share of the funding. John Encarnacao headed the paver subcommittee, along with Jim Murphy and Jim Luciani. Encarnacao reported that over $150,000 was raised from paver donations.

John EncarnacaoJohn Encarnacao told the Veterans’ Day crowd that he drove up to the monument one day last week, pulling up in the early evening just as the new lights were being tested for the first time.

“Tears came to my eyes,” Encarnacao said. “It was truly a magical moment in my life and something that all future generations can be proud of and inspired by.”

In the week that the new monument has been in place, people have come in a steady stream to view up close the names cast in bronze and engraved on the Walk of Remembrance. Day or night, there are people there. In that respect, the monument seems destined to be like a local version of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, DC.

Too many World War II veterans have already left us, but their children and grandchildren have not forgotten them. Even knowing that their names would already be on the monument, many families purchased pavers in their memory. Families and descendants of servicemen from other eras also came forward so that those heroes would also be represented on the Walk of Remembrance.

Phyllis Hull has said often over the past several years that she wanted the new monument to be finished while there were still World War II veterans alive to see it. The biggest applause at the dedication ceremony came when American Legion Commander Tom Collins asked the World War II veterans to stand and raise their hands.

They saw it Phyllis, thanks to you and your committee.

[This column first appeared in the November 17, 2011 Wakefield Daily Item.]

Photos of the Monument dedication.

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