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Gold Star Families Monument planned for Wheeling waterfront

Nov 11 2018
Scott McCloskey | The Times Leader

WHEELING — A tribute to the families and relatives who sacrificed a loved one for our freedom is being planned for the Veterans Memorial Amphitheater at Wheeling’s Heritage Port. 

The campaign to raise funds for a Gold Star Families Monument is well underway, said John Nanny, chairman of the Hershel “Woody” Williams Scholarship Foundation and lead for the local project. The foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization that was established in 2010, is the entity undertaking the monument projects being constructed throughout the United States. As of last month, 42 monuments have already been completed and dedicated in various locations across the country, while 45 monuments are in progress with 39 states represented. 

The monument planned for Wheeling’s waterfront will be the same as every other monument that has been constructed, with the same design and inscriptions, Nanny said. The monument was designed by Williams and Architect Kenton Blackwood. 

The foundation mission is the vision of Williams, who is the sole surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the World War II battle of Iwo Jima and a native of West Virginia. The mission is to honor Gold Star families by building Gold Star monuments in all 50 states, offering scholarships to Gold Star children, sponsoring outreach programs and events and educating communities about Gold Star families and the sacrifice they have endured. 

Nanny said Williams realized that when a loved one made the ultimate sacrifice in the military, the loss was to the entire family. He started the memorial project nearly a decade ago as a way to acknowledge and thank Gold Star families for their enduring sacrifice while remembering those who served. 

The goal is to raise about $55,000 to make the Gold Star monument a reality near the amphitheater, according to Nanny. He said that figure should cover the cost of the monument, as well as labor and surrounding landscaping costs. Nanny said the city of Wheeling donated $10,000 toward the project just this past week. He said while they have already raised more than $32,000, the project’s committee hopes to raise the remaining $23,000 by the end of this year. Following some discussions with city officials, it was decided the monument will be placed slightly north of the Veterans Memorial Amphitheater at Heritage Port, he said. 

Nanny said when Williams asked if he would head up the campaign to make a Gold Star monument a reality in Wheeling during a recent visit, he said there was no question in his mind that he would take on the task. Nanny said he is thrilled to have the opportunity to work on such a meaningful project with Williams. 

“It’s going to happen,” Nanny said. “I’ve worked with Woody for so many years. … All you have to do is meet the man and you are willing to do anything.” 

He said once the funds are raised Williams plans to attend a groundbreaking ceremony and eventually a dedication ceremony. 

In addition to Nanny, the local project committee includes: Vernon Anderson; VFW Post 4442; John Powell; American Legion Post 1; Demetrius Lathon; American Legion Post 89; Karen Schubert Garvin; Gold Star Sister; Dave Schoenian; Military Order of Purple Heart; and Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott. 

The monument, which will be just over 7-feet high and 13-feet long will consist of four black granite panels. One side will bear the words “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument — a tribute to Gold Star Families and relatives who have sacrificed a loved one for our freedom.” The other side will tell the story about homeland, family, patriot and sacrifice. The center of the monument will feature the most distinct feature — a cut-out that represents the loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. 

For those interested in making donations, checks can be made out to: HWWMOHF or (Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation) and mailed to John B. Nanny, Marine Corps League, P.O. Box 2121, Wheeling, WV 26003. Nanny said any support is greatly appreciated. For more information about the project, contact Nanny at 304-281-2950 or email