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Park group takes new approach

Leaders say concept more attainable while still honoring those who made sacrifices

February 26, 2011
By WARREN SCOTT Staff writer

WELLSBURG - The Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park has been envisioned as a reminder of the sacrifices made by veterans, with a nod toward abstract art; and as a tribute to the men and women in America's military branches centered around a working fountain.

Now leaders of the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation say they have a new concept for the park that is more attainable while still serving as a solemn reminder of the many Brooke County men and women who gave their lives or made other sacrifices while defending their country.

Howard Armstrong, the group's new president, noted the park has been in development since 2004 and said he and others are eager to see a fitting memorial completed at a reasonable cost and in a realistic timeframe.

Last year the foundation's design committee selected a concept submitted by five students from the Pittsburgh Art Institute that called for each military branch to be represented by two statues, a man and a woman, with a granite wall partially encircling them and a walkway leading to a fountain at the rear.

The winner of a contest held by the group, the design had an estimated cost of $600,000 to $800,000 and would have required the group to secure funds, post-construction, for the fountain's operation and maintenance.

Armstrong said the decision not to go with the design is no reflection on its creators or the committee that chose it.

"It really is a beautiful design," he said.

Armstrong said the design committee instead has opted to adopt a design with an estimated cost of $250,000 to $300,000 that could begin construction in 18 months.

He said the memorial's location will remain an area near the paddle boat pond at Brooke Hills Park.

Based partly on an idea suggested by Paul "Bud" Billiard, the group's publicity coordinator, the tentative design calls for a granite wall with polished front divided into five sections, each bearing the insignia of a military branch and bearing the names of local service members who lost their lives while serving their country.

The group is exploring various ways to display the names of other Brooke County veterans who returned from their military service but made other sacrifices.

Plans also call for a 6 foot to 7 foot statue of a soldier in a saluting position near two stone plots, one representing Flanders Field, the French battlefields of World War I where many fallen American soldiers were buried; and the other, Arlington National Cemetery, the famous military cemetery maintained by the Army in Virginia.

Billiard said, following the meeting, the idea is to represent service members who were buried in the foreign countries where they served and those buried at home.

Armstrong said monuments near the park's entrance would pay tribute to local service members who were prisoners of war or missing in action and to Lance Cpl. Michael J. Smith, who was killed in a skirmish while serving in Iraq in 2004.

He noted it was Smith's death that inspired the park. Joan Nicholson, Smith's aunt, had suggested it after Armstrong commented, at a community memorial service following his death, that tribute should be paid to all of Brooke County's fallen servicemen.

Armstrong, who served then as Wellsburg's city manager, served as the foundation's first president. He stepped down because he felt a veteran should lead the group and Jim Lee, chief probation officer for Brooke, Hancock and Ohio counties, offered to head it.

Lee resigned late last year, citing other commitments, so he agreed to return to the position, Armstrong said.

On Thursday he stressed the need for everyone to work together to make the park a reality.

He said committees will be formed to seek private sponsors and donors for the project, contractors willing to volunteer services and materials and residents willing to sponsor one of about 600 granite pavers leading to the site.

He said the group's 260 members also should assist the foundation's fundraising committee with its various efforts.

"A few people can't do this. Everyone's got to help," Armstrong said.

Nancy Strope, the committee's chairman and the foundation's vice president, said the group's annual dinner-dance will be held at 6 p.m. April 16 at the Wellsburg Banquet Hall.

The foundation's Veteran of the Year will be announced, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will serve as guest speaker, she said. The dinner, provided by a caterer to be announced, will be followed with dancing to music by Twice as Nice.

Tickets are $25 per person and $45 per couple.

To defray the cost for the dinner-dance, the group is selling pepperoni rolls.

They may be purchased from any member or by calling (304) 737-3671, 737-3667 or 737-2295.

The change in design for the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park is not the first. The foundation had hired artist David Mega, a Brooke County native, to design the park earlier.

Mega envisioned a kneeling soldier contemplating the sacrifices made by fallen comrades and a "fountain" of metallic arms reaching toward the sky.

Lee said local veterans preferred a standing soldier and a more traditional approach to the monument, and the foundation and Mega parted amicably.

(Scott can be contacted at

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