Local memorials mark generations of sacrifices

November 6, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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Dozens of doves were released during a previous Cranberry Memorial Day ceremony at the veterans memorial in the township park.

Americans remember American sacrifices in many ways.

We write songs and movies and books. We publish records and statistics and testimonies. We establish buildings and holidays and memorials.

There are quite a few of the latter in the larger Cranberry area. Like the armed forces themselves, these memorials exist because of teamwork, volunteerism and lifelong community service.

Here are three of several locations residents can pause to remember the fallen and the living in southern Butler County.

Cranberry Township's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 879 post the colors during Sunday, May 25, 2008, Memorial Day Ceremony in North Boundary Park, Cranberry Township.

Cranberry Township

Cranberry Township Veterans Memorial in North Boundary Park was a community effort. Former Cranberry VFW Post 879 Commander George O'Brien approached Cranberry Township in 1998 to tell officials the area was missing something.

“(He) said, 'We need a veterans memorial here in Cranberry Township,'” recalled Rex Brown, Veterans Memorial chairman. “It was born in '98.”

Between the township, the county and the VFW, the memorial's $50,000 cost was covered entirely through donations.

About $36,815 came from “brick sales.” Bricks around the heart of the memorial — a 20-ton sandstone — commemorate donors, their families and veterans.

“Everybody was involved, pretty much,” said Don Vasko, who was one of the original veterans involved with the installation.

The first celebration at the memorial was Memorial Day in 1999. Current post members recall 300 to 500 people coming for the service. A 100-piece band from Seneca Valley provided live music. White doves were released. Fireworks were shot.

“A lot of people were invited,” Vasko said. “Everything went off — I'd say — perfect.”

“It was a big to-do,” said Paul Hughes, a post trustee.

The layout was actually designed by former memorial Chairman Phil Stebler. Six trees planted around the memorial symbolize the branches of the military.

The sandstone itself came from a farm in Saxonburg. It was extracted and moved to the park, where it was installed with a foundation.

The stone is blank, with the exception of a plaque denoting the mission of the memorial.

“There are no names,” Brown said. “(It's) for all veterans.”

“Past, present and those to come,” Hughes said.

The diagonal slant of the top of the stone occurred naturally. It represents soldiers who are missing in action.

The memorial's upkeep is still a community effort. The township mows the grass. Hughes plants the flowers every year.

“When you're retired, you have time to do things like that,” Hughes.

Though the memorial doesn't get quite as many visitors for the Memorial Day service, it's still a central part of Cranberry Township. Brown and his fellow veterans hope it remains a place for people to reflect on the sacrifices made for the U.S.

O'Brien also wanted, according to Bruner, to make the memorial relevant year-round.

“It was an approved group effort,” Hughes said.

“It was something,” Bruner said. “It still is today.”

The memorial won recognition through the 1999-2000 VFW Community Activities National Awards Program.

“I think most of the credit goes to George,” said Harry Bruner, a post member. “(But) this is all about community service.”

Contact VFW Post 879 to ask how to volunteer for or donate to the memorial.

This veterans' memorial in EDCO Park has caught the eye of several residents, who hope to move it to what they consider a more prominent location.

Evans City

The veteran memorial in EDCO Park has seen Evans City from a few different points of view over the years. Originally, it faced Evans City School.

“They were doing a major renovation there,” said Lee Dyer, borough council president.

Though the exact date the memorial was moved is unknown, it eventually became part of EDCO Park.

Mayor Dean Zinkhann said the memorial has been a part of Evans City for decades.

“It was (there) as long as I can remember,” Zinkhann said. “And I'm 75.”

To the best of Dyer's knowledge, funding and installing the memorial was the work of many citizen groups.

“It was a community effort,” Dyer said.

The memorial includes two monuments: One concrete monument recognizes first responders and the second recognizes military members.

The memorial also has footstones, commemorating both those who served in the military and Evans City residents.

“(It has) a little bit of everything,” Dyer said. “A wide variety of citizens.”

Eight brick walls represent unidentified soldiers who died in combat.

The different pieces of the memorial have a single mission: They are meant to be emblems of patriotism in Evans City.

“It represents those who protected us,” Dyer said. “I'm a firm believer that freedom isn't free.”

“It means everything to the veterans,” Zinkhann said. “We owe them everything in the United States.”

The memorial sits in a “nice little grove,” according to Dyer.

“It's under trees and it's protected and it's just a nice place to sit and think,” Dyer said.

But Zinkhann does not believe the memorial gets the attention it deserves. He'd like to see the memorial moved to the center of Main Street, closer to other town markers.

“I'd like to see them sort of all put together,” Zinkhann said.

Dyer said the veteran memorial could use more attention. Some of the brick walls need to be fixed and not everybody takes the time to walk through the park.

“It's not used enough,” Dyer said. “It doesn't matter to me where it's located so long as it's intact.”

Donations for maintaining the memorial can be made to the borough.

Adams Township

The Adams War Memorial honors veterans living and dead. The $100,000 project was funded by donations and spearheaded by Mary Jane and Paul Ford.

Paul, a Vietnam veteran, had the idea for a memorial in 2014.

“My husband was a truck driver,” Mary Jane said.

Paul made brick deliveries in Rural Valley, Armstrong County. The town's veteran memorial impressed him.

“He decided if they could have one in a small community, why couldn't we have one?” Mary Jane said.

Paul, according to Mary Jane, told township supervisors if they didn't approve a memorial on township property, he'd build it in the Fords' yard.

Supervisors approved a spot for the memorial in Adams Township Community Park. Over 700 visitors came to the dedication ceremony May 18, 2014.

“We couldn't do it without friends and family helping,” Mary Jane said.

The memorial consists of three major monuments: a podium with military insignia, a monument remembering soldiers killed in action and a “Called to Duty” statue.

The Fords maintain the memorial during the year. Mary Jane said Paul is especially attentive.

“He goes almost everyday and cleans it,” Mary Jane said.

The monument also has memorial bricks, inscribed with the names of veterans and the wars in which they served.

The Fords organize a public memorial service every year around Memorial Day. Visitors — particularly children — are always welcomed.

“We hope it helps the community to honor our veterans,” Mary Jane said. “It's very important to honor the living and deceased veterans.”

Donations for the upkeep of the memorial and for annual Memorial Day services can be sent to the Fords at 238 Hutchman Road, Mars, PA 16046. Donations should be marked “Adams War Memorial.”

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