A monumental groundbreaking
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – Before he gave the invocation at the beginning of Saturday’s Memorial Day service at Cornelius Town Hall, the Rev. Carl Yost observed that in the three days since he sat down to write his prayer, 12 more servicemen and women had died in defense of their country.
“As we take a few minutes to honor their sacrifice, may we remember that they gave all their minutes for our freedom,” said Yost, senior pastor of Community in Christ Lutheran Church and a major in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
With Yost’s words beginning the town’s Memorial Day service on Saturday, May 28, leaders of the town and American Legion Post 86 brought a fitting end to the hour-long ceremony when they lifted ceremonial spades of dirt for the groundbreaking on the town’s future Veterans Monument. Leaders of both organizations expect to gather again on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at the same place to dedicate the new monument.
The monument is designed to enshrine the name of every veteran, passed and living, who at one time called Cornelius home, and the town still hopes residents and former residents will submit the names of veterans they know.
In his remarks, Mayor Jeff Tarte paid special tribute to former Mayor Harold Little, a veteran and member of Post 86 and the person whose dream led town leaders to Saturday’s groundbreaking.
Little couldn’t attend Saturday’s ceremony, but Tarte said, “Two years ago, he had a vision, a simple vision, of a place where all the names” of veterans who had lived in Cornelius could be recorded.
“He’s a man of action, and he gets things done,” Tarte said. Little recruited three other Post 86 members – Commander John Washam, Vice Commander Gene McKinney and Dee D’Oria – who “have worked tirelessly” raising funds and speaking to groups to gather support for the monument.
Tarte then turned the podium over to Commissioner Chuck Travis, an architect who took Little’s vision and launched a statewide competition to design the monument. Travis said the project would never have moved forward without the work of Assistant Town Manager Andrew Grant and local landscape architect Ted Duncan, who managed the design competition and put together the professional jury that picked the winning design among 19 entries.
Pointing to the edge of the audience, Travis singled out Cornelius husband-and-wife architects Gary and Alais Fankhauser. The couple won the design competition, and residents can expect to see them daily at the construction site for the monument, Travis said.
Tarte also thanked the three north Mecklenburg Rotary clubs, which pledged $15,000 for the project; local businesses; firefighters and police officers, who dedicated the recent Guns vs. Hoses game to the project; town employees who helped organize a gala that raised $10,000; and children who raised money in their neighborhoods.
Other major sponsors are:
• American Tower Corp., ceremonial stage.
• The Surane family, military column.
• Jeremiah and Jennifer Wyatt, the flag pole.
Sponsors of memorial benches are: Aqualine, Bost Foundation, McMahon Truck Group, RedBlue, Republic Services and Rod and Miriam Whisnant.
To construct the $165,000 monument, the town will provide $50,000, and the campaign committee has raised more than 94 percent of the remaining $115,000, Grant said.
Concluding the formal part of the ceremony, Washam, Post 86’s commander, read a letter, one of many he received about the town’s monument campaign. Speaking of her father, who was wounded in France a day before the armistice that ended World War I, a woman wrote, “I only wish my dad could see it because he loved his country and the American Legion.”
Her father’s name will join hundreds of others when Cornelius dedicates the monument in November.