Nov 2 2023
Marah Morrison | The News-Herald
After learning that his father’s hometown had a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, Owen Engle made a visit to Wapakoneta.
It was then that the 15-year-old Eastlake North High School student was inspired to bring a similar monument to Willowick. Since early this summer, Owen has met with city officials and continues to lead the charge in bringing the monument to Willowick, and Lake County.
“I thought this would be really cool to have in Willowick,” Owen said. “At first, it took me a little bit to figure out what to do. Eventually, I reached out to the Woody Williams Foundation. I then took the information they gave me and I wrote a letter to council.”
Hershel Woody Williams was a Marine in Word War II who fought at Iwo Jima. He was the last living Congressional Medal of Honor recipient of the war.
“He passed away in 2022, so just recently,” Owen said. “They did dedicate a monument in his hometown in West Virginia.”
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.
“He had a famous saying,” Owen said. “The saying is, ‘The cause is greater than I.’ He was a chief warrant officer in the Marines and wanted everyone to remember his motto.”
A Gold Star Family is the immediate family members of a service member who died in combat. In Willowick, there are four, Owen said.
“We were able to locate one of the Willowick Gold Star Family members,” he said. “We do have two other families from the surrounding area — Willoughby and Wickliffe. The foundation requires that on our committee, we need to have at least one. We’ll have two, so that is great for us.”
As for the monument itself, it has four panels and is made out of rare granite from India. Each of the four panels stands for homeland, patriot, legacy and sacrifice.
“On the front of the monument, they’re all the same,” Owen said. “On the back, they’re different, so if there’s one located in Dallas, they might put the Dallas skyline on that panel. You can change three of the panels, but the only one we cannot change is the patriot panel. That has the Marines raising the flag.”
Peter Engle, Owen’s father, believes that Owen may be the youngest honorary board member for the Gold Star Family Monument and Woody Williams Foundation, alongside Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Malta.
“At 15, he’s done this,” Peter said. “It was a big ticket item. I think when we found out how much it was, it was like $75,000, so we knew this was going to be huge. The more and more we’re looking into it, it’s probably going to be closer to $100,000 to make sure we get from start to completion.”
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 email@example.com.
Both Peter and Owen are hoping to bring more awareness and that word of mouth will allow for more Gold Star Families to be aware of what’s going on, as well as to allow them the opportunity to be involved.
As of now, the project is slated to be completed by Memorial Day of 2025. The proposed site location is 30435 Lakeshore Blvd.
“They’re trying to get it to where we can have a line of sight with the water, so at night when you’re looking at the monument, you can see through,” Peter said. “There’s a lot of people who do come for sunset, so this will give the opportunity to celebrate Willowick, families and what they’ve sacrificed.”
The monument’s groundbreaking is slated for the spring or early summer of 2024.
“Construction can take up a year or more depending on if we have all of our funds or if we still need funds,” Owen said.
Owen hopes to serve as a naval officer in the U.S. Navy.