WELLSVILLE - Veterans, family members and friends, of those who served converged upon the intersection of Wells Avenue and state Route 45 for the dedication of the new Wellsville Honor Roll on Saturday morning. The completion of the monument is the culmination of work and planning that goes back to 2010.
It was more than three years ago that George Crews, a member of the Wellsville Veterans Memorial Council, sought and received permission from village council to construct a new honor roll modeled on the original monument, which once sat on Main Street at the present site of Shoub Towers. Erected during World War II, its fate remains unknown after it was taken down in the 1970s to make way for the building.
"We just had it in the newspaper, and told people that we were taking donations and needed names for the wall," said Debbie Koffel, a fellow member of the Wellsville Memorial Council, who spearheaded the effort alongside Crews. Koffel managed the fundraising and cataloguing of names to be inscribed on the wall, while Crews managed the site preparation and construction of the memorial itself.
George Crews (left) speaks at the dedication ceremony for the new Wellsville Veterans Honor Roll on Saturday. He and Debbie Koffel (right) headed the campaign to have the monument constructed. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
During the ceremony, they emphasized that the monument was an honor roll, not a memorial. While the distinction may sound academic, Crews explained that a memorial is built in remembrance of those who have died. This honor roll, by contrast, pays tribute to every Wellsville resident, living and dead, who served their country in the armed forces. "You don't have to be deceased to be on it," he said, which sets it apart from most military monuments.
Crews says that he and Koffel realized it would be an uphill effort to see it through to completion, especially with only the two of them overseeing the project, but added that they are both determined individuals who stand by their words. "If I say I'm going to do it, I do it," Crews said.
In the end, $30,000 was raised and more than 2,200 names were collected for the wall.
Koffel and Crews thanked the laborers from numerous union locals who volunteered their services in pouring the concrete, laying the bricks and carrying out other work to finish the project. Thanks were also extended to Steckman Memorials for donating the three granite slabs and setting them into the wall at no cost, to Campbell Sign for designing and making the sign that sits atop the monument, and to Stevenson Manufacturing for the silhouette recreation of the Iwo Jima flag-raising that serves as a centerpiece of the grounds.
Not forgetting the purpose of the monument, Koffel said she was "very appreciative for every name that's on that wall, because it wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them."
Among those who searched for family names following the ceremony was Mary Wright, president of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5647 Ladies Auxiliary. "It's been a long time coming," she said of the Honor Roll. Taking photos with her phone, she planned to send the pictures to her brothers, scattered around the country, for them to see.
Cletus Glazebrook of Wellsville, a member of Rolling Thunder, Ohio Chapter 2 out of Akron, was also in attendance. Glazebrook says he recognized many names on the wall, including those of fellow Vietnam vets Melvin Newlin, the late Marine and Medal of Honor recipient, and Bill Hughes, a friend from high school who took his own life nearly seven years ago. "You couldn't even tell anything was wrong with him," he said.
A veteran of two tours during the war, Glazebrook said he was very pleased with the honor roll and the courtesy being shown to military veterans. "It's Wellsville's way of saying thank you," he said.
Glazebrook admits the situation was quite different when he returned home from the war three decades ago. "I've had more people come up to me lately, younger generation, saying, "I want to thank you for your service, I appreciate what you did.'" He says those are the individuals that made it all worthwhile.