Nearly a year after Riverside’s board of trustees decided to refurbish and keep the village’s Gold Star war memorial in Guthrie Park, plans are moving ahead to complete the improvements next spring in time for Memorial Day 2019.
Riverside Public Works Director Edward Bailey said that the roughly $25,000 project to refurbish and improve the landscape around the war memorial would be included in the village’s 2019 budget and that he’d seek village board approval for the expenditure early next year.
“The goal is to be done for next Memorial Day,” said Bailey. “Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I expect the work to get done by then.”
The scope of work will be modest, in accord with the village board’s direction last November, and will consist principally of pouring concrete footings for the five large boulders that comprise the memorial.
Four smaller boulders, set in a ring around a flagpole and commemorating the dead of World War I, were placed in the park on Memorial Day 1921. A larger boulder, bearing a plaque listing the names of Riverside’s war dead from both World War I and World War II, was added to the memorial in 1948. The large boulder also includes a plaques bearing the names of Riversiders killed during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Settling of the heavy boulders over time has sunk them farther into the ground. In the case of the 1948 memorial, the settling had essentially buried the bottom of the plaque, obscuring a few names, until Legion member Tom Sisulak dug out the earth from the base.
Because Riverside American Legion Post 488, which was founded in 1919, played a major role in the dedications of both the original and later memorials, current day members a few years ago set about trying to raise money to refurbish them.
In 2016, the American Legion post gave the village of Riverside $5,000 to get the project off the ground. Since then, the post has obtained two grants for the work.
Last year, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission awarded $2,000 for the project, and just recently Landmarks Illinois announced that it would be awarding $5,000 to refurbish the Guthrie Park memorial as part of that agency’s World War I Monument Preservation Grant Program.
Post 488 Commander Joseph Topinka said his group also has plans to put in a request for another $2,000 grant from Riverside Township.
As part of the project, Topinka has requested that the village relocate the “Guthrie stone” from the memorial site. That memorial marker was placed there in 1966 to commemorate the municipal service of S. Ashley Guthrie, who served as the village’s attorney from 1925 to 1968.
Bailey confirmed that the plan is to move the Guthrie stone to the east side of the park, closer to the large granite horse trough, also known as the Driver Monument in memory of that early Riverside family.
The 20,000-pound horse trough is also sinking into the ground and leaning, making it a candidate for a new concrete footing as well. Bailey said the plan is to do that work at the same time the war memorial is being refurbished.
“If cranes are going to present to raise the [war memorial] monuments, there’s no better time to do it,” Bailey said.
Topinka also said the American Legion has asked that a new stone be included at the war memorial to display two new plaques – one that was part of the grant award from the World War I Centennial Commission and one that can tell the history of the war memorial.
“It’s so that 100 years from now, it says something for the future,” Topinka said. “It’s a letter to the future.”