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‘Major’ step forward for Winters statue
GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent
, Staff Writer
Efforts at further memorializing local war hero Major Dick Winters moved a step closer to reality at Monday night’s Ephrata Borough Council meeting.
It was also determined that the Ephrata Borough portion of the linear trail will be renamed in honor of Winters at a ceremony Thursday at 6 p.m.
A local group, chaired by Scott Shelly and Rebecca Gallagher, has been working to establish what is being called a Leadership Memorial near the trail head off Fulton Street. A small memorial garden is planned featuring a statue of Winters standing in Normandy, France.
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.
Council members were seeking to attach certain contingencies to their approval, including provisions for the construction and care and maintenance of the site once completed.
Those conditions, however, raised some debate among council members along with Gallagher who was present for Monday’s meeting. When the debate turned to the matter of the final design, things seemed to heat up a bit. Council President Dale Hertzog questioned what the final project would look like. An artist rendition was presented, which Mayor Ralph Mowen explained was very similar to what the final project would look like.
One condition of concern was that the Community Services Committee be kept informed of the design process and given the opportunity to comment on the final design prior to construction. Gallagher initially interpreted that provision as council wishing to maintain some degree of control on the final project.
Council member George DiIlio explained that this was not the case and just asked that council be kept up to speed with the project and simply be allowed to offer feedback.
"Should council be concerned about the appropriateness of the design in the long run and if so, how would we have any input on this?" questioned DiIlio. "I would think community services should be able to approve preliminary plans. Of course taste is always subjective but we should be allowed to preview what is proposed and perhaps offer some suggestions or recommendations."
Gallagher tried to put things into perspective.
"The question is whether we can use the site," added Gallagher. "If you are going to approve the design then own it. Put it up and own it. What we are looking for is the approval to go ahead with this. We don’t have approval to do any of this."
Mowan urged council not to get wrapped up in details as it would make the process difficult.
"We are not going to put something there that is not a class site and benefit to the borough," stated Mowen. "I would hope that you would have a little faith that we are not going to put something half rate up."
Community Services Committee chair Tom Reinhold along with Mowen reiterated that this was not going to be a Dick Winters Memorial but a "Leadership Memorial." They also pointed out that the proposed statue was not a statue of Winters but of his likeness.
The concept for a Leadership Memorial featuring Winters was conceptualized and pushed by local veteran and police officer, Brian Dell Isola.
What was made clear at Monday night’s meeting was that the group behind the memorial was simply asking for permission to move forward and to do so utilizing a small portion of borough property. What the group was not looking for was council’s approval of any of the actual plans to be set in place.
"The intent of the committee is that this will be funded through private funds and that no tax payer funds will be used," added Reinhold.
Reinhold explained that originally the sculptor for the monument thought the statue itself would cost approximately $90,000. The amount to construct the memorial and to be placed into an account for the maintenance and upkeep of the memorial is currently between $200,000 and $300,000.
"There are basically three parts to this project," explained Gallagher. "We must pay the artist, there is installation and then the on-going maintenance."
Reinhold also said he wanted to secure insurance that would hold the borough harmless from any liability arising from the site.
Council member Susan Rowe questioned Reinhold and Gallagher on who would be responsible for maintenance and things such as snow removal once the memorial was complete.
"My thought was that no, the borough would not be responsible for this and that maintenance would be separate from the borough’s park system," responded Borough manager Bob Thompson.
Mowen, who has been quite supportive of the effort to establish the monument, weighed in on the amount of maintenance actually required for the monument.
"I didn’t think it would be a big deal," stated Mowen. "However, the borough will not be responsible for anything do to with this monument."
Gallagher added her thoughts to snow removal.
"I would think you would want to plow it," added Gallagher.
Council member Vic Richard then raised the issue of whether or not such a memorial had the support of Winter’s 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 sister 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’ home town 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," stated Reinhold. "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 Monday night’s meeting. 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 closets 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."
In the end, council voted to approve dedicating the requested portion of land for use as a Leadership Memorial.
Addressing council after the vote, Gallagher emphasized the community enthusiasm for the project.
"I think what I want you to understand is what I have been experiencing since working on this project is extreme community enthusiasm," said Gallagher, who said she had received verbal commitments from three more donors for another $3,000 while attending the recent luncheon with Governor Tom Corbet. "What this man accomplished in large is part due to his upbringing. (Our World War II vets) are passing away and we need to do this."
Gallagher also urged council to not lose sight of the big picture, of what such a monument would bring to the community and possibly even tourism. She pointed to the huge fans of the Band of Brothers, even on Facebook.
"Who can go to see this in Normandy?" questioned Gallagher. "I don’t want us to overlook this. It would be a shame spiritually, and economically if this community lost this.
For additional information on Ephrata Borough please visit their website at www.ephrataboro.org.
Gary P. Klinger welcomes your questions, suggestions and comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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