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Monument honoring Gold Star families being planned for Naperville’s Veterans Park

Nov 25 2020
David Sharos | Chicago Tribune

A Gold Star Families Memorial is to be built in Naperville’s Veterans Park, saluting those who have lost a son, daughter, sibling or other family member in military action.

Several Naperville residents are partnering with the Naperville Park District and the nonprofit Woody Williams Foundation to raise the $100,000 needed to erect the monument at the west end of Veterans Park, 303 E. Gartner Road.

When completed, it will join a list of other military and veterans memorials in the city, including the Spirit of the American Doughboy and Spirit Of The American Navy statues in Burlington Square Park, near North Avenue and Center Street; the Veterans’ Valor memorial at Van Buren Avenue and Washington Street; the Cmdr. Dan F. Shanower 9/11 Memorial next to the Naperville Municipal Building, 400 S. Eagle St.; and Veterans Park itself, which has eight flagpoles and an engraved wall dedicated to veterans.

Similar efforts are being done all over the country, with more than 63 monuments in the planning stages, according to a foundation news release.

Naperville resident Jennifer Slown, co-chair of the Gold Star Committee and a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve captain, said interest in the project began last year when she was approached by Lew Breese, a member of the local American Legion and VFW.

“I am a member of both organizations as well, and our goal is to hopefully get this installed by next spring,” Slown said. “The cost of the monument is just under $100,000 and we started fundraising a few weeks ago and got money from a veterans’ organization in the amount of $3,000.”

Lisa Gangi, public relations coordinator for the Gold Star Family Memorial effort, said the monuments follow a template and consist of “four panels ranging from nearly two-feet wide to just over 3½ feet, and rest on a base about 16-feet long. The panels are different sizes and the tallest would be about six feet high.”

There are two inscriptions on the front of the black granite panels: “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument” and “A tribute to Gold Star Families and relatives who sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom.”

On the back, each panel bears a single word – “Homeland,” “Family,” “Patriot” and “Sacrifice.”

“The scenes on each panel are a reflection of the community’s Gold Star Families and their fallen heroes,” the monument website said. “At the center of this tribute is a silhouette of a military servicemember who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. Each monument includes a granite explanation marker, which serves to educate visitors about the monument design, meaning, and local committee.”

“This monument would be the only one so far in Illinois,” she said, although the website says monuments have been proposed for Springfield and Great Lakes, where the naval base is located.

While the foundation usually helps secure the materials for the monuments, Slown said “because of COVID, we are keeping things as local as possible.”