Arlington Heights unveils Memorial Park sculpture
Greg Padovani got his wish almost immediately.
The chairman of the Arlington Heights Drive to Revive Memorial Park Committee said during Saturday's "Eternal Flame" sculpture unveiling that he wants the park to be a "living memorial to honor the sacrifice of our military veterans and their families."
And as soon as the hourlong program wrapped up, veterans and family members began swapping stories about many of the village's veterans, whose names are etched into the brick pavers surrounding the new sculpture.
"It all came out perfectly," Padovani said. "So many people worked so hard to make it as beautiful as it is."
Among the scores of names listed on pavers are 58 of the village's sons who were killed in wars dating back to the Civil War.
Janet Sorensen of Palatine was seeking out the two bricks that bear the name of her uncle Richard J. Adam. One was installed by the committee. The other carries the words "Soldier Son," and was placed in the walkway leading to the sculpture.
"It's really his only memorial," Sorensen said.
The Army Air Corps corporal was killed in November 1943 when the British ship he was being transported on was sunk during a German air attack in the Mediterranean Sea near Algeria. In all, more than 1,000 American troops were killed when the HMT Rohna was sunk. Adam's body was never recovered. Additionally, the 26-year-old's death would be shrouded in secrecy for years because it involved the first known use of a guided bomb by the Germans.
"When I was in grade school, I found a box of letters he'd written my grandmother -- his mother -- during the war in the attic of her house and I sat there and read them all and cried," Sorensen recalled. "He signed them all, 'Your Soldier Son.'"
Some 200 veterans, family members and residents from around the area showed up at Saturday's sculpture unveiling. The mammoth 15-foot bronze flame created by local artist Fran Volz is modeled after the Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The design was chosen by the committee from about 40 submissions by artists from around the country. It wasn't until the committee chose Volz's design that they realized they'd picked a hometown artist.
"It was actually a passion," Volz said of the creative process. "I thought, 'What would a flame look like in statue form?'"
The final result pleased everyone involved.
"The gift of service and sacrifice of our veterans is eternal," Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder said during the ceremony. "We are dedicating an everlasting testament to honor and remember every veteran."
Work to renovate the park, at the southwest corner of Fremont Street and Chestnut Avenue, has been ongoing since 2006. That first phase cost roughly $172,000 and was paid off before the committee embarked on the phase to create the sculpture and surrounding garden, which came with a price tag of $110,000. Much of the cost was covered by donations, officials said. Some came from tax dollars.
The committee is hoping to install lighting along the walkways that lead to the sculpture in the next phase.