by Ann Fletcher
Cornelius native Harold Little served two years on a U.S. Navy destroyer in the South Pacific before returning home to run a business and serve four terms as Cornelius mayor.
Now he’s at the center of a mission to construct a permanent monument for veterans outside Cornelius town hall.
He and seven others from the town of Cornelius and American Legion Post 86 are part of a veterans monument committee whose vision is to erect a monument “that expresses the gratitude of Cornelius citizens to those who suffered hardships and often sacrificed their lives to protect and defend the interests, freedoms and well-being of our citizens.”
After World War II, Little told the board, a brick monument displaying the names of local veterans was built then removed in the early 1980s when a drug store at the site was torn down.
The monument was preserved and stored in the basement of Cornelius town hall until the mid-1990s, when the current town hall was constructed and the monument was inadvertently carted off with construction debris.
Assistant town manager Andrew Grant was there when Little spoke and said everyone agreed it was time to replace the monument. A committee was formed with Grant at the helm.
Serving with Grant and Little on the committee is Cornelius Commissioner Chuck Travis, architect, planner and business owner who’s served on the town’s planning board, land development code committee and architectural review board.
Cornelius resident and landscape architect Tedd Duncan, a LEED Green Associate (national accreditation in green building expertise) and Cornelius PARC advisory board member is also on the committee, along with Terry Vlasius of Classic Programming Solutions, who created and maintains the website.
Cornelius native and American Legion Post 86 Commander John Washam Jr. serves on the committee along with former Marine and Post 86 Vice Commander Gene McKinney, and Cornelius resident and Post 86 member Dee D’Oria, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as a gunner’s mate before embarking on a 34-year career with the federal government.
Initially, the board set a budget of $100,000 and expected to have the monument completed by Veterans Day 2010, but it didn’t take long, said Grant, for the committee to realize they’d need more time and money to do the job.
They’ve invested months in a juried competition, selecting a winning design from 19 entries. The winning design by Alais R. Fankhauser of Pedra Grande Associates, Inc. in Cornelius is on display at town hall.
After selecting the design, the committee began a diligent effort to raise $165,000, the current project estimate.
They’re making “slow but steady gains” in fundraising, Grant said. With a pledge of $50,000 from the town of Cornelius, the committee has raised $82,500, about half of what it needs.
“We’ll soon be able to announce additional corporate donations we’ve been working on,” Grant said. Other efforts have included a “poker run” that raised about $4,000, a corporate challenge grant of $5,000 from Aqualine/Aquanomix, local business fundraisers and individual contributions.
The committee is also collecting names of Cornelius veterans, living and deceased, who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, received an honorable discharge, and lived in Cornelius at some point in their lives.
McKinney said 795 veteran names have been submitted thus far, with more coming in each week. For McKinney and the committee, ensuring the monument is built has been a worthy endeavor.
“It’s not work, it’s a pleasure, and I’m so proud to be a part of it,” said McKinney.
For more information, to view sketches, submit a veteran’s name or make a tax deductible donation, visit Cornelius town hall, 21445 Catawba Ave., visit www.corneliusveteransmonument.org or call 704-892-6031, ext. 172.