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Eastlake North High School sophomore presents Gold Star Family Monument project to Board of Education

Mar 17 2024
Marah Morrison | The News-Herald

Owen Engle recently shed light on his Gold Star Family Monument project at a recent Willoughby-Eastlake School Board meeting.

After the Eastlake North High School sophomore visited a monument in Wapakoneta he knew he wanted to have one in Willowick.

“Our plan is to have the monument located near Willowick City Hall with a view of the lake,” Engle said. “We do not have an exact location on that land, but we are open to ideas.”

Superintendent Patrick Ward met Engle in October. It was then that Engle shared with him his passion.

“We’ve been talking all year about hands-on learning, minds-on learning, deeper learning, experiential learning and getting kids prepared for their world,” Ward said. “I thought there’d be no greater way to demonstrate that than hearing from one of our students who’s doing something actively on his own and something that’s quite commendable.”

Since last year, Engle has met with Willowick city officials and continues to lead the charge in bringing the monument to Lake County. Additionally, he reached out to the Woody Williams Foundation, took the information they gave him and then wrote a letter to council.

The foundation pursues specific endeavors and goals through the vision of Medal of Honor Recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams. The foundation encourages establishing permanent Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments in communities throughout the United States.

“A Gold Star Family is the immediate family members of a fallen service member who died during the time of a conflict,” Engle said. “In Willowick, there are four and in the school district, I believe there are 25.”

Williams was enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in the Battle of Iwo Jima. He received his Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman at the White House, but his devotion to service members, veterans and their families began long before, Engle said.

“As World War II began, (Williams) came into direct contact with families in his own community and he delivered a Western Union telegram, informing the Gold Star Families of a death of their loved one,” he said.

The panels on the monument each stand for homeland, patriot, sacrifice, legacy and family. The monument is also made from a rare granite from India.

“We can change three of the four panels on the back of the monument,” Engle said. “The only panel we cannot change is the patriot panel with the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima.”

At the Wapakoneta monument, Engle said the names of 13 soldiers killed in action and their units are on the front of the monument. The monument also features a memorial description, a wreath laid by the Daughters of the American Revolution and all of the monument’s top donors.

The design process of the monument has been started, as well as fundraising efforts.

“We have a pizza fundraiser at Revolution Pizza on March 23 at Willowick, Chagrin and Mentor locations,” Engle said, noting that 25% of the total profits from that day will go toward the monument.

On May 1, Bar Forno in Willowick will be hosting fundraising efforts and a 5K on Aug. 11 will be held in order to raise money for the monument.

Engle encourages those interested in getting involved in the project to spread the word, individually donate, volunteer at the 5K and find local businesses interested in donating or sponsoring the project. All donations made will be designated for the Willowick monument and can be made at woodywilliams.org/monuments/willowick-oh.html or via email at monument@woodywilliams.org.

As of now, the project is set to be completed by Memorial Day of 2025. The monument’s groundbreaking is slated for this spring or early summer.

Since starting the monuments, Williams’ foundation is responsible for establishing 131 Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments across the United States with more than 65 additional monuments underway. The foundation continues to grow its reach by being involved in multiple initiatives across the country.

Engle hopes to serve as a naval officer in the U.S. Navy.