Edina's Veterans Memorial approved

  • Article by: MARY JANE SMETANKA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 22, 2011 - 11:49 PM

The city has joined a growing list of localities where memorials are planned.

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A concept sketch of the Edina Veterans Memorial in Utley Park.

Fundraising for Edina's Veterans Memorial will begin in earnest now that the City Council has approved the memorial's design and concept.

The memorial, which will be built in Utley Park near the intersection of W. 50th Street and Wooddale Avenue, has a budget of almost $399,000. Except for a city contribution that is capped at $30,000, the memorial will be paid for with donations and grants.

Although other veterans memorials in the metro area have had trouble raising money in a tough economy, organizers of Edina's memorial aren't worried.

"The committee is very confident," said John Lonsbury, a member of the memorial committee. "We understand it's a tough economy, but we believe the project is meaningful and residents will support it."

Unlike other cities, which have recognized donations in the hundreds of dollars with pavers, Edina has an ordinance that bars recognition of donations of less than $5,000 at a site like the memorial. Lonsbury said the Park Board is reviewing that long-standing policy for the City Council, but for the time being, fundraising will abide by that rule.

Planners have talked of putting as many as six stones along a walkway leading to the memorial to acknowledge donors. Large donations also could be acknowledged on benches at the site. But the memorial itself is intended to be clear of a lot of names, Lonsbury said.

"It's meant to be more solemn and subtle and reflective," he said. "The committee felt that putting a lot of corporate logos and all that would detract from the overall effect. But we do want to recognize significant donors."

Last week, City Council members asked about a possible donation from the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution that had been rejected.

Dianne Plunkett Latham, registrar for the DAR's Monument Chapter, said an e-mail she sent in September about the possibility of raising money for one of three flagpoles on the site was intended only as an inquiry about the funding that would be needed to pay for a pole and its installation. Lonsbury and city officials said it was rejected because the DAR expected a plaque to recognize the donation.

"In the past, we have always had the plaque," Plunkett Latham said. "They do have an issue if they are not recognizing donors."

The memorial will be a "V" shaped granite plaza -- for "victory" -- that widens to a black granite wall topped by a bronze eagle landing on a wreath. The wall, which will have a shelf for bouquets and other memorials, will bear the names of 32 Edina residents who died in conflicts dating back to the Civil War. The edge of the plaza will feature three flag poles and benches backed by plantings of ornamental grasses.

Marshall Schwartz, a member of the memorial committee, told the council that he had already put 1,000 hours into the project.

"We have a deep tradition of military service that exists in Edina ... dating back to the Civil War," he said.

During World War II, he said, it would have been difficult to drive around the community of 9,000 people without seeing multiple Gold Star homes on every street. During World War II, 25 men from Edina died, from a 20-year-old who was killed on the battleship Arizona at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, to a West Point graduate who died minutes before the war ended.

Schwartz said he had spoken to a 60-year-old man whose father died before the man was born. The man finally visited his father's grave in Europe last year.

"By having this memorial we will be bringing these people back, a little bit of them," he said. "This is part of our community. It adds value."

The project was approved unanimously by the four council members who were present. Construction will begin when fundraising is complete.

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan

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