by Susan Mikula Campbell
When the annual VFW Veterans Day ceremony is held at Youngstown's Veterans Park at 11 a.m. Nov. 11, participants will notice some improvements at the veterans monument.
Not only will the list of veterans in the special kiosk next to the Veterans of the Ages memorial rock be updated to include even more names of Youngstown and Town of Porter residents who served in the U.S. military, but new landscaping to draw attention to the memorial will be in place.
Coordinating the project was Dottie Riordan, widow of former Mayor Neil Riordan. The former mayor, who always promoted his village as another Mayberry, led the charge to build the memorial as part of the village's sesquicentennial celebration in 2004.
"It warms my heart to be able to help continue Neil's legacy. The VFW memorial was one of his passionate projects," said Dotty Riordan, who was always her husband's right hand in his village activities. "The updating of those who have served and the new landscaping would bring a smile to him. I'm sure it has."
The landscaping was completed Monday by Mike Costello of Lakewood Landscaping.
The list of veterans names, first compiled in 2004, was updated about five years ago. This year's addition of some 125 names brings the total to more than 1,200 names, according to Dotty Riordan.
The Riordans' son, Michael, a professor of print media at the Rochester Institute of Technology School of Media Sciences, organized getting the list of names printed on a special type of waterproof material. He helped his dad with the original project.
Anne Brett, museum director and secretary for the Town of Porter Historical Society, supervised the collection of additional names of veterans. The next update of names will be a few years off, but forms for veterans or family members who want names added to the next update are always available at the museum.
Youngstown Trustee Tim Adamson also has been involved in the project. "He's been busy helping me try to finish Neil's wish list," Dotty Riordan said.
Veterans Park and the memorial are located on Nancy Price Drive (Third Street) across the street from the Youngstown Volunteer Fire Co.
Youngstown VFW Post 313's new commander, Gary Zanardi, said Tuesday's brief service at the memorial will include a speaker, singing by Youngstown resident Bill Sidall, the placement of a wreath, and prayer by the Rev. Rex Stewart, pastor of Youngstown First Presbyterian Church.
After the ceremony, light refreshments, including coffee and doughnuts, will be served at the Post 313 hall, 434 Third St.
Zanardi, a Vietnam veteran, said the veterans memorial at the park is "definitely a credit to the community."
"This is for all veterans. The names on that monument go back to the Revolution. It (community acknowledgement of its veterans' service) is especially poignant for Vietnam veterans, because there was so little recognition when we came back. It may mean just a little bit more."