By CHRISTINA RITCHIE ROGERS
CORNELIUS – North Mecklenburg and south Iredell residents will head to Cornelius Friday morning for a special Veterans Day ceremony at the town’s newly completed Veterans Memorial Monument at Rotary Plaza, near Town Hall. For years, the region’s annual Veterans Day celebration has been held on the Village Green in Davidson, but this year it moves down the road to celebrate and dedicate the new monument with town leaders, speakers and singers.
The town last year committed the land for the monument and agreed to match community donations up to $50,000. It also invited members of the local American Legion Post 86 to serve on a committee planning the project.
After more than a year of fundraising, the town during a Memorial Day celebration in May broke ground on the monument site, which is located adjacent to Town Hall. The board in August unanimously approved a construction contract with McMillen Construction Management for the monument, a project initially expected to cost $165,000, and over the last three months, drivers by have watched as the plans for the monument took shape.
The names of veterans, living or deceased, who at any time lived in Cornelius, are engraved on black, 31/2-foot by 51/2-foot granite panels on the walls around the perimeter of the monument. The town received more than 1100 Cornelius veterans’ names for inclusion on the panels – twice as many names as it anticipated. In fact, the town needed to tweak the original design for the monument, adding more wall space to accommodate all the names.
The additional materials needed bumped the cost of the monument to $182,000, a goal the town has been able to reach thanks to the efforts of community members. Citizens, town leaders and staff, business owners, police and fire fighters joined together in the fundraising efforts over the last year, including two poker runs, a gala, charity softball game, barbecue lunch, individual donations and more. In April, the effort got a significant boost when three area Rotaries joined together and donated $15,000, pushing the total raised at that time above 90 percent of the goal. After that donation, the project was dubbed, the Cornelius Veterans Memorial Monument at Rotary Plaza.
Beginning at 11 a.m. Friday, American Legion Post 86 Commander John Washam will lead the ceremony, that will include a welcome from Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte, keynote speaker N.C. House of Representatives Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Cornelius), a 21-gun salute by American Legion Post 86 and patriotic songs from the Cornelius Interfaith and W.A. Hough High School choirs, accompanied by the Hough High Concert Band.
The dedication will include a brief history of the monument, recognition of significant donors, a tribute to Mayor Harold Little, and a flag raising ceremony.
The towns expect to return next year to the tradition of a Memorial Day celebration in Cornelius and a Veterans Day celebration in Davidson, Davidson mayor John Woods said, but this year decided to join together in Cornelius in celebration of the new monument.
WANT TO GO?
The event is free and open to all community members. Limited parking will be available in lots adjacent to and around Town Hall and handicap parking will be designated. In addition, participants are encouraged to take advantage of the satellite parking lot located at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church and ride free shuttles to Town Hall.