One year after more than 300 people gathered at Memorial Park in Royal Oak for the unveiling of the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial, the proposed $4 million project is beginning to take shape.
From 555 Studio and Gallery in Detroit's Mexicantown, sculptor Larry Halbert is creating maquettes, or rough models, of the faces of Michigan residents who served in WWII. From children gathering milkweed in northern Michigan to be used in life preservers to a woman working in a factory to a soldier reading a letter from home, the sculptures connect viewers to the sacrifices and patriotism of Michiganders.
The memorial is designed to be a place where future generations can learn about the more than 600,000 Michigan residents who served in the armed services in World War II.
Royal Oak architect Michael Gordon is the project's designer. His plan includes a multi-purpose amphitheater, a wall of stars representing Michiganders lost in the war, a Walk of Honor and a colonnade of pillars with a soaring stainless steel ribbon above that represents flight.
"The oval gathering space in the center of the project is really a celebration space," Gordon said. "In the winter it can be used as a skating rink. We really want people to see the memorial as a place to celebrate freedom."
Halbert, Gordon and the project's general contractor, Michael Hall, all have family members who served in World War II.
"I am very honored to work on a project like this. And to have personal tie-ins, too, makes it special," said Hall, whose father served in WWII.
Hall said once funding is in place the project would take approximately six months to build.
Michigan, Royal Oak pledge support
The project has the support of Sen. John Pappageorge and Rep. Jim Townsend.
In February, the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial was recognized by legislators in Lansing as the state’s official tribute to Michigan’s contributions during the Second World War.
Royal Oak was selected for its proximity to Detroit and major freeways and its many events, including the Woodward Dream Cruise, which will give the memorial exposure to the masses. In addition, Royal Oak is the birthplace of Honor Flight Michigan.
"Memorial Park was intended to be a World World II memorial park, they just never built a memorial," said Debi Hollis, president of the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial.
The memorial will be surrounded by a circle of oak trees that were donated by England and planted at the park in 1948.
"So we are just kind of finishing the plan of putting a memorial there," Hollis said.
At the unveiling ceremony last year, Mayor Jim Ellison told the audience it was with great humility and a lot of pride that Royal Oakers accept the stewardship of the memorial. He promised the city would properly and respectfully maintain the memorial.
How you can chip in
The Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial needs to raise $4 million to construct the year-round multi-purpose memorial.
The organization is seeking corporate sponsors and cash donations to meet its fundraising goals. Sponsorship opportunities range from $100 for an engraved brick paver all the way up to $1.5 million for the presenting sponsor title. To learn how you can chip in visit www.michiganww2memorial.org.