Families with ties to military purchase memorial pavers

Published 6:39 am Thursday, August 27, 2009

Martha Campbell has had family ties to the military for a long time — including a father in World War I, brothers who served during World War II and a grandchild in Iraq now.

But the 43-year Austin resident will soon see another person close to her honored as part of the Mower County Veterans Memorial makeover.

Campbell has purchased a commemorative paver for her late husband, Earl “Bud” Campbell, a man she described as helpful and “patriotic.”

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On Wednesday, local officials, veterans and residents ceremoniously kicked off the make-over — the first substantial renovation to the monument since its 1992 dedication — on what was dubbed “Walk of Remembrance” day.

Earl “Bud” Campbell’s paver will join a number of others along the walkways of the Main Street memorial, and a new bronze statue will replace the fountain as part of a project that will span until next spring.

The Mower County Veterans War Memorial Committee is looking to sell up to 1,056 of the $300 pavers in that time.

Committee member Norman Hecimovich said he’s sold about 50 so far and has received a number of calls from interested people.

Hecimovich said pavers can be for veterans both alive and dead, and can be purchased by family members.

“It’s a great way families can honor their loved ones,” he said. “We have too many heroes that are sitting out there…that (people) don’t know about.”

Donovan Drake said he will likely follow his mother, Martha Campbell, and buy a paver — or two or three.

A former Navy serviceman and current treasurer for the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, Drake said he’d like to honor his father, his father-in-law and himself alongside his step-father, Earl “Bud” Campbell.

“I think they’re a great idea,” he said of the pavers. “I’d like to be able to see a thousand or two in there.”

Drake did nuclear deterrence work during the Cold War and served from 1974 until his retirement from service 21 years later.

“It was an honor to serve the country,” he said.

Scott Wermanger, sergeant first-class with the Austin National Guard, said his crew would be putting up fliers at the armory to help spread the word.

“It’s nice that they want to finish that up,” he said of the memorial.

And indeed, “finishing up” the memorial has been a long time coming.

Original plans for the memorial in the late 1980s called for the bronze statue —which is meant to reach out toward a woman on the wall behind it.

Pavers have also been thought about for a number of years, committee members said.

Now, local veterans hope the planned renovations complete the deal.

“I’m excited about this and everyone should be in Austin,” Hecimovich said. “It’s something that is so important to the city.”