Buoyed by $225,000 from this year’s state bonding bill, people who are planning the Edina Veterans Memorial in Utley Park are aiming at a Memorial Day 2015 dedication.
“It’s wonderful; it’s going to help us finish this thing,” said Richard Olson, chairman of the committee that is planning and raising money for the $450,000 project.
Edina has been working on a memorial to salute its veterans since before 2010, when the project was approved by the Park Board. The effort has had ups and downs. Last year, some members of the memorial committee left after criticism that the group’s passion for the project hadn’t been matched with progress toward the goal of raising money to pay for it.
“The group had a bit of a re-formation,” said Edina City Manager Scott Neal. He said the project is back on track with the “amazing gift” of state money, courtesy of work by Sen. Melisa Franzen, Rep. Ron Erhardt and Rep. Paul Rosenthal.
Mayor Jim Hovland noted that this is the first time the city has asked for state assistance with this type of project.
“Being able to not only tell veterans but also show veterans what they mean to us with a fitting memorial makes us feel very good as a community,” he said.
Olson, who has a background in fundraising as vice president of advancement for Benilde-St. Margaret’s School, said the committee now has raised almost $175,000 in cash and is seeking in-kind donations from contractors to donate part of their work on the project.
He said committee members now include experts in design, building, marketing and logistics, along with veterans who know what message the memorial should convey.
“We have new people working with older members, people who are excited about this, and people who have a history with the memorial,” Olson said.
He said he hopes that construction will begins in July in Utley Park, near Minnehaha Creek. The memorial will feature a 5 ½-foot bronze statue of an eagle with spread wings clutching a folded American flag atop a granite block displaying the medallions of the five service branches.
Names of 32 Edina men who died in various conflicts will be displayed on the V-shaped plaza, which also will have benches, flagpoles and granite blocks bearing the names of major donors.
Originally, the memorial plans featured an eagle clutching a wreath, but worries about the expense connected to a sculpture that would have to be shipped from New York prompted the committee to switch gears.
Now the group is working with Shoop’s American Bronze Casting of Osceola, Wis. The eagle sculpture will cost $46,500.
The state money, which the memorial committee must match to receive, helps with the most vexing issue tied to the project, Olson said. Even committee members who badly want the project have found it awkward and difficult to ask people for money, he said. He said he thinks the committee could eventually have raised what it needed, but he feels an urgency to finish the project.
World War II veterans in particular are growing older, Olson said. As a longtime volunteer for the city’s July 4th parade, he has seen how that group of veterans forms the backbone of the event and draws the loudest applause from onlookers.
“We really want to recognize those people now,” he said. “These veterans are passing away every day.”