Memorial rededicated in WB after 50 years

‘We can’t show disrespect by having this memorial just go unattended for all these years’

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published December 3, 2023

 After cleanup efforts by local residents Steve Kay and Bert Green, a peace memorial was rededicated at the current site of the Chaldean Community Foundation Nov. 11.

After cleanup efforts by local residents Steve Kay and Bert Green, a peace memorial was rededicated at the current site of the Chaldean Community Foundation Nov. 11.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


WEST BLOOMFIELD — In 1972, a group known as the Walnut Lake Women’s Club erected a memorial for military veterans on a site located at 2075 Walnut Lake Road in West Bloomfield.

According to West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Steve Kaplan, Walnut Lake Elementary School previously operated on the property, prior to closing in the mid ’90s.

After that, he stated, it was turned into a multi-purpose building before being vacated. Earlier this year, the property was purchased by the Chaldean Community Foundation, a nonprofit human and social services organization that was founded in 2006 and provides cultural heritage and charity work in the local Chaldean community.

Steve Kay has lived near the property since 1992, and he was aware that there was a memorial on the site.

Earlier this year he noticed that the memorial had been unattended and needed some work. He was inspired to take action and decided to call upon his friend and fellow West Bloomfield resident Bert Green to help him do something about it.

“I looked at it and I said, ‘This is an important thing. This is a memorial for all the fallen soldiers from the past,’ … and so I called up my friend Bert,” Kay said. “Bert is very involved in Fields of Honor and Taps for Veterans, and so we took it upon ourselves to clean up the memorial because we want to respect it, and it was overgrown with weeds. … It needed to be cleaned up.”

According to Kay, the pair cleaned up the site in August.

Kay said that his father was a veteran, and his great uncle flew over Normandy during World War II.

“This is for our veterans. We respect our veterans, and we can’t show disrespect by having this memorial just go unattended for all these years,” Kay said. “There was a big, giant tree that was in there. We cut it down. … Nobody had taken care of this memorial for quite a period of time. You go about your day and you just don’t look at it or realize, and then one day you look at it and you go, ‘Wow, that thing is really overgrown.’”

Kay said that he has a “deep feeling” for veterans, and Green shared a similar sentiment.

“My father was in the Navy,” Green said. “I did not serve, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the armed service and our veterans. It was instilled in me from a young age. And then I also play the trumpet or the bugle, ever since I was a young man, and I started playing taps in multiple organizations.”

Green said that the work the pair did consisted of cutting down trees, repairing a fence and fixing a flag pole.

Kay shared more details about working on the flag pole.

“The flag was an interesting thing because … (we) went to go change the flag, and the harness that holds it there broke from so many years of neglect,” he said. “And that flag just stayed up there and didn’t come down, and it’s still up there today.”

Kay estimated that it took a few hours to clean up the site.

Kay said that, unbeknownst to him and Green, the pair learned they had trespassed. However, after learning of what the trespassing involved, the township and the Chaldean Community Foundation were on board with their efforts.

In fact, there was so much support that on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, a peace memorial rededication ceremony took place on the site.

The ceremony was attended by state and local officials and included remarks from a local veteran, as well as the playing of taps by Green.

The ceremony also included a poetry reading from an inscription that is on a wall located at the site. According to Kay, the Walnut Lake Women’s Club put the wall on the site to commemorate fallen veterans.

The poem’s author was William Stanley Braithwaite, an African-American poet born in 1878.

Kaplan was one of the attendees at the event. He said that it was a beautiful ceremony that was well-planned by Kay and Green.

“Historical events are interesting to people,” he said. “I think it’s good for the community to be educated about past war heroes and those who served to protect our country.”

Green acknowledged the support of the Chaldean Community Foundation.

“They were going to knock this thing down because they didn’t know what it was, but as soon as they heard that it has to do with veterans, the military, and what it meant, they were all for keeping it and supporting it,” he said. “So Steve and I, a couple times a year, will go out and mow the grass and trim.”

From Green’s perspective, what it took to clean up the site of the memorial and have a rededication ceremony demonstrates that people can make a difference, and that it doesn’t always have to be with money.

“It can be with time, your energy or your effort,” he said.

Green also shared another positive that resulted from the process.

“Bringing together the different cultures,” he said. “Steve and I happen to be Jewish, and the Chaldeans, of course, are Christian in West Bloomfield. We can all come together from different faiths, different backgrounds and different ideologies, but for one common good. … It started innocently enough, with us cutting down the trees, repairing a fence, fixing a flag pole and trying to make it look a little bit nicer, and then in a good way it morphed into the rededication, the community coming together, and all those other things. ”

Kay said that he felt like it was his duty to take the actions that he did.

“Sometimes you say, ‘Well, let somebody else do it,’ but if you wait for somebody else, it’ll never get done,” he said. “That’s been my philosophy in life.”