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Letter discourages erecting of statue
A letter received by Ephrata Borough, circulated Tuesday among the committee raising funds to honor Major Dick Winters with a statue, discourages the community from moving forward with the project.
The letter was signed by Winters’ daughter, Jill W. Peckelun.
In that letter, Peckelun explained the background of how the family gave the OK for Ephrata to proceed with renaming a walking trail, which was dedicated June 6, after Major Winters.
"We thought though that it was a nice idea. Humble, appropriate for a quiet man, a fitting remembrance appropriately placed," the letter reads.
However, the letter then goes on to say, "Going forward in the future, it has been consistently our opinion that Dad can best be honored by focusing now on the still living veterans and active service soldiers who are among us. It is their time now. "
The letter then explains the family’s position on the statue project.
"That statue – as the sculptor well knows -was promised to my parents to be a one of a kind statue in France. The only one in the world – uniquely and thoughtfully placed, positioned to face the sea. A fitting and honorable tribute situated in the very place where the battles were fought. As I told the sculptor some months ago, we as a family do not support any other replica or placement of a replica statue."
However that was not the understanding of the committee formed to raise funds for the Leadership Memorial, featuring the likeness of Major Winters, according to co-chair Rebecca Gallagher, who spoke of artist Stephen Spears’ offer to replicate his original sculpture here.
"Spears has emphatically expressed to our committee that he owns the copyright and never said it is a one-time deal and only in Normandy," said Gallagher by phone Tuesday night.
"We do not want to dishonor his (Major Winters) wishes, but honor him and his legacy in our community," Gallagher continued.
Ephrata Borough Manager Bob Thompson acknowledged receipt of the letter.
"I can’t speak on behalf of borough council, but will be referring it to the Community Services Committee for their agenda," said Thompson, who also indicated that meeting had been changed from July 15 to tomorrow night, July 11, at 4:30 p.m. in borough hall.
Gallagher and co-chair Scott Shelley, along with the committee, have been working for months to make this project happen near the linear trail head off Fulton Street. A small memorial garden, benches and lights are also planned for the memorial plaza. At the heart of it though is a 12-foot tall bronze likeness of Winters. The group was seeking council’s permission to place the memorial on borough property, feeling the best place for such a monument would be at the head of the rail trail.
The borough OK’d it in June, but not before some questions related to the topic of how the family may feel about it.
As reported in last month’s article, council member Vic Richard raised the issue of whether or not such a memorial had the support of Winters’ family. He explained that in the immediate aftermath of his death the family had been approached but were not ready for such a thing.
"We have since talked with his daughter and they are now good with the recognition but did not want to be a part of the ceremony and wanted it to be as low key as possible," replied Thompson.
Richard expressed his concerns about moving forward if the family is not in agreement.
"I’m saying this gently. This seems like a wonderful thing," said Richard. "I’m just not sure how comfortable I am putting up such a statue if the family is not behind it."
Mowen pointed out that such a monument would either be placed here in Winters’ hometown or in Hershey where Winters also lived. Mowen said he preferred it be placed in Ephrata.
Reinhold added some feedback as well.
"This is a likeness of Major Winters," he said. "The family was also not involved in the statue that went up in Normandy."
Local resident Larry Alexander has also written extensively on Winters’ famous Band of Brothers and was present at the June council meeting, where he addressed Richard’s concerns.
"Winters was an American figure," commented Alexander. "Maybe they won’t be happy about it, but remember, he (Winters) approved the one in Normandy himself. Bob Hoffman was one of his closest friends who told me that if Ephrata does not do it, Hoffman will work to place it in Hershey. They don’t have the perfect place but would create one. And that from Hoffman who was one of his closest friends the last years of his life."
Peckelun’s letter concludes with thanks for Ephrata’s effort and an alternate suggestion.
"We appreciate the good intentions of those in Ephrata who want to honor a veteran," the letter concludes. "We encourage them to honor the living veterans and soldiers so that they can enjoy some of the rewards that our father did."
Gallagher restated that the memorial is for many.
"The statue is to be inspirational and he is inspiration to people in Lancaster, America and the world," she said. "We are honoring him and the other soldiers. Ephrata is his hometown. We embrace the story of the community which helped shape him. Shouldn’t we celebrate that he is a symbol?
"(He shows) what can be accomplished…it’s a lasting legacy."
No public funds are being used for the project. The fund-raising goal has been set at $300,000, with $90,000 going to the artist, approximately $100,000 toward the site and another $100,000 for ongoing maintenance.
"It will not be a burden to the community," Gallagher said.
Thus far $11,425 has already been raised with donations coming in from as far away as Texas, Arizona and California.
Gallagher said the committee does plan to contact Peckelun.
"We do intend to reach out to Jill," Gallagher concluded. "The committee wants to let her know our intentions – we want to honor Dick Winters and all who served."
More LETTER, page A6