Veterans Monument has an inspired past
by Eileen Diver
Webmaster's Note: Dear Reader, the following article was written in 2009 and published in Merrick Life. The article is a dated, but I wanted to include it in our blog section because it gives you an insight into the Merrick's Veteran Memorial Park. In 2011, a 9-11 memorial was built at the Park to a mark the 10th Anniversary of 9-11 and pay tribute to the heroes who lost/risked their lives on that fateful day.
A green manicured 400-foot triangle of land on Merrick Avenue and Little Whaleneck Road has become a peaceful and meaningful addition to the landscape of our town.
The Veterans Memorial Park was the inspiration of veteran Walter Ellensohn, and with the dedication of this one man along with the American Legion Post 1282, the North Merrick Firefighters, organizations and officeholders, the site in 10 years has been embraced by the community. It is a place to honor those who served and are serving and where "their names liveth for evermore."
The first monument was dedicated on Veterans Day 2000 to honor all military services and those who serve in time of peace and time of war. Faces of the military are hand-carved on black marble. On the reverse side of the monument is a poignant poem by Stan Gebhardt, acquired through the efforts of veteran and legion member Bob Dishman, in memory of those who "did not come home."
Once the minipark was established, Walter Ellensohn, chairman of the Monument Committee, and the Merrick American Legion, received support and grants from the offices of Senator Fuschillo Jr., county Legislator Dave Denenberg, state Assemblyman Dave McDonough, Hempstead Town Councilwoman Angie Cullin, the North Merrick Fire Department and donations from residents, business people, the Kiwanis Club and the Merrick Chamber of Commerce.
Past Commanders Robert Tom Riordan, Robert Wieboldt, Vincent Gabrielle and John Murphy worked diligently for the success of the project, as does the current commander of the Merrick Legion Post, Phil Williams.
A second memorial to "Those who have made the supreme sacrifice for our country," lists Merrick residents killed in action or missing in action in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and, most recently, Iraq. In 2006, Army Specialist Scott Bandhold, a hometown boy, was killed when a roadside bomb detonated in Misiah, Iraq. Serviceman Banhold was the first name to be engraved under Iraq on the monument.
Harry Crosby, co-chair of the Monument Committee, researched the names of Merrick military lost in the wars. "It was a lot of work," Harry says, "but we are proud of our Merrick Memorial. The neighborhood honors it and the results justify the efforts we put into this special place."
Completing the triumvirate, the North Merrick Fire Department dedicated a monument to the volunteer firemen, past, present and future, in 2007 – another tribute to those who serve and those killed on 9/11.
Firefighter/veterans Chief Joseph Vicario, Co-Chairman Ex-Chief Henry Hinrichs and Ex-Chief Harry Crosby worked with this project.
The youth of the community, Boy Scout troops, have placed a plaque at the park, and have helped with improvements at the site. Eagle Scout Daniel Clark completed his Eagle Scout project with the help of his fellow Scouts from Troop 23, allowing electrical connections to be made and collecting donations for the work.
Chairman Ellensohn is pleased to report that the park has been nurtured and appreciated by the community. "The ceremony following the Memorial Day parade in May had the largest attendance we have ever had," he said. Gene Judd of Island Greenery cuts the grass and constructed the paver circle of flowers, while Pat Farms donates trays of flowers every year.
The Kiwanis Club of Merrick and the Merrick Chamber of Commerce donated benches. County Legislator Norma Gonsalves sent two light poles. Sheryl Bennett, a nearby resident, has volunteered to weed and care for the garden. Visitors stop by to sit a bit, place a posy for someone, and say a prayer.
Mr. Ellensohn keeps an eye on the park and never passes up a chance to ask for a grant, or a donation to beautify and maintain this lovely place of peace in Merrick. "This belongs to all folks. We have had no vandalism, no abuse – it a place of honor for our town."
Note 1: Diver, Eileen, "Veterans Monument has an inspired past", Merrick Life, 2 July 2009, p. 9 and 15
Note 2: Vol. 72, No. 25 (USPS 049-500) Merrick, NY 11566, The Community Newspaper, Thursday July 2, 2009