Aug 31 2020
Jonathan Delozier | The Gazette
YORK TWP. — An annual ceremony honoring Gold Star families may not be possible right now, but that hasn't stopped local advocates from showing how much they care for those who've lost loved ones on distant battlefields.
Rolling Thunder Inc. Ohio Chapter 8 held a cleanup event this past Saturday at York Township's Gold Star Families Memorial, which was built in 2016 on Columbia Road thanks to roughly $140,000 in fundraising efforts from U.S. Air Force veteran and Medina County resident Mickey Kennedy.
Chapter 8 president Becky Blackmore said more than 10 people showed up to help with some coming from as far away as Cleveland.
Participants washed the memorial's structures, fixed loose stones and pulled a number of weeds.
"We knew that this still had to get done before the end of September," Blackmore said, referencing Gold Star Mother's Day, which falls annually on the last Sunday of September. "Planning for the cleaning really started back in February. We went to York Township about it and they were very helpful and happy to have someone taking care of it."
Rolling Thunder has hosted ceremonies in 2018 and 2019 at the memorial, which have honored Gold Star families and caught the attention of numerous local veterans advocacy groups.
"Some sort of make-up ceremony could be possible if there's a change with the mass gatherings," Blackmore said. "If that were to happen, I'd imagine it would have to be before the winter because it's pretty hard to get something like that put together in the cold and snow."
Blackmore is a committee member at Rittman's Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery and said cleaning scheduled for headstones there is a good bar for Rolling Thunder to try and keep up with in York Township.
"They clean their headstones twice a year and I don't see why we can't do that here," she said. "It's a once of year thing right now but that could very well change. These families deserve everything we can do for them and our members are ready to help. A few of us are going back this weekend to touch up some mulching."
Kennedy gained initial inspiration for the Columbia Road memorial after becoming acquainted with 95-year-old veteran Hershel "Woody" Williams. Kennedy eventually became a honorary board member of a foundation bearing Williams' namesake and tasked with spearheading the creation of a memorial in Medina County.
According to the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, 54 Gold Star Family memorials have been built and dedicated across 42 states with another 64 either being planned or under construction. There are currently eight located in Ohio.