Sep 22 2022
Brian Lisik | Akron.com
NORTON — Residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on a Norton City Council proposal to fund the construction of a memorial to the city’s fallen military members at a special council meeting Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at the Norton Safety and Administration Center, 4060 Columbia Woods Drive.
City Council is considering an ordinance to appropriate up to $68,640 to contract with the Woody Williams Foundation to construct the memorial, which would consist of a granite monument and four benches.
The Woody Williams Foundation is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization named in honor of Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams that erects monuments in honor of veterans, specifically recognizing Gold Star Families. The 6- by 12-foot monument is made of black granite and includes four panels on an 8-inch foundation.
Councilman Jamie Lukens (Ward 2) first proposed the idea for the monument at the May 23 Norton City Council meeting. At the Aug. 15 Council meeting, Lukens said the goal is to have the memorial ready by Memorial Day 2023, with funding for it to come from the city’s Parks Fund and cable fees and paid in two annual installments. He added the city could also seek donations from individuals and businesses.
“It started as an idea and has begun to gain momentum,” Lukens said. “As a [U.S.] Army veteran I have always wondered why Norton never had a veterans’ [park]. The biggest thing we want to accomplish at the [Sept. 22] meeting is to get some public opinion and provide education on all facets [of the project], including what a Gold Star Family is.”
Gold Star Family recognition dates to 1917, when the Gold Star Mothers organization was founded to honor the immediate families of service members who have died while serving during a time of conflict.
Lukens said one of the more challenging aspects of the Norton memorial project has been locating Gold Star Families in the city. He also said the Woody Williams Foundation website indicates each memorial should tell a community’s “unique story,” which he said could include a section to honor all Norton veterans.
Lukens said he met with four local monument companies but is confident in the Woody Williams Foundation’s experience. The foundation has erected more than 180 monuments across the country, with 72 more in progress, according to its website.
Lukens said city officials are also discussing the location of the proposed memorial, with both Williams Memorial Park at the intersection of South Cleveland-Massillon and Greenwich roads, and Columbia Woods Park at 4070 Columbia Woods Drive, being considered.
“Both have pros and cons. [For example] it would be more visible at Williams Memorial Park, but there are parking issues there,” Lukens said. “I feel at the end of the day we will get a veterans’ memorial park in Norton. This meeting is part of the process to see what people think and what they want. We are not trying to push this on anybody. The best thing people can do is come to the meeting and learn about it.”