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June 11, 2013

Organizers of WWII memorial miss goal, but push on with fundraising

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

ROYAL OAK — Organizers looking to raise money for the construction of the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial in Memorial Park missed their goal of raising $3 million by June 1.

Considering they just received the state’s support for the project in February, Debi Hollis — the president of the memorial organization — said organizers realized the goal was lofty. But, she added, there is no time for a five-year plan when it comes to ensuring the World War II generation will actually be present at the memorial’s dedication.

“Of course we’re disappointed,” she said recently. “We want to build the memorial, and we want to build it now.”

Hollis said she is likely only weeks away from receiving the large corporate donations that will get the project going, but the hoped-for Veterans Day 2013 dedication date is likely not going to happen. Organizers’ next goal is either Memorial Day or the D-Day invasion anniversary in 2014.

Despite the disappointment, the push to raise the $4 million needed for construction and the establishment of a trust fund continues.

Coincidentally, the American Rosie the Riveter Association National Convention will be at the Dearborn Inn in Dearborn June 15, providing Hollis another avenue to publicize the construction efforts. She said actual World War II veterans and Rosie the Riveters from that generation will pose for pictures like the sculptures that will eventually be placed at the Michigan memorial.

“We’re pretty excited about that,” Hollis said.

Artist Larry Halbert has already designed clay models of what will be life-size, bronze sculptures representing the home front and the land, sea and air campaigns of World War II.

Also on June 15, Mitch Hubert, 16, the president of the Michigan Society Children of the American Revolution, will announce at Memorial Park his summer project of selling pins and burlap bags to help raise funds for the legacy memorial.

The pins will depict Halbert’s various statues. The burlap bags represent the bags used to dry milkweed pods collected in northern Michigan and sent overseas for life preservers.

His presentation at the memorial will begin at 11 a.m.

Hubert, from Troy, said he first heard of the memorial in May while attending a Student Veterans Association meeting at Oakland Community College.

Hubert said his fundraiser has also been a valuable history lesson. While his dad has always been a World War II history buff, his project happens to coincide with him learning about the war in history class. Furthermore, learning about Michigan’s importance in the Allies’ effort has fascinated him.

“It’s interesting how the school curriculum, my dad and the project all line up,” he said.

The pins and the bags will be for sale that day as part of the memorial fundraiser.

Hollis is ecstatic about the help from Hubert and MSCAR.

“He’s going to be our voice for the younger generation throughout the summer,” said Hollis.

Hollis said both events will highlight the organization’s effort as it seeks more financial support.

“I just think those two things are pretty unique,” she said.

In the background, the organization has used the money it has raised so far to have the site at Memorial Park surveyed and the soil tested to ensure it will properly support the memorial.

“Assuming everything is in place, we are looking at five to six months of construction time,” said Michael Hall, a general contractor from Gordon B. Hall and Sons, who will be building the memorial.

He said he can build most of the memorial throughout the winter but would likely wait until the warmer months to pour the concrete.

Hollis said she has been in contact with some corporate donors whose donations could get the project going.

“If we hear the kind of news we’re hoping for — particularly from one of them — then we are going to be on a whole different page,” she said.

She said recent news articles written about their attempt to build the memorial has increased individual donations.

“When people start calling you and you don’t have to get out and knock on doors, that’s a good thing,” she said.

She said with each article, there were influxes of individual donations and memorial-brick sales. Hollis even received an email from a teacher who wants her choir to sing at the opening.

“We’re disappointed that we haven’t been able to break ground yet, but we just move forward,” she said. “We just keep trying.”

Memorial bricks of varying sizes can be purchased for $100 to $500. Those interested in donating to the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial can do so by calling (248) 421-9900 or by visiting www.michiganww2memorial.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.