By Michael J. Billoni
Senior Contributing Writer
As the calendar soon turns to May, the volunteer members of the DeGlopper Memorial expansion committee will be hard at work preparing the site at the corner of Baseline Road and Grand Island Boulevard for the annual Memorial Day observance. That when we, as a nation, celebrate and recognize those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives to ensure our safety as Americans.
With that vision in mind, in the fall of 2015, this volunteer committee sought to develop the vacant lot in Grand Island's town center. The goal was to transform the land into a memorial site where visitors from all over could pay homage to Grand Island’s hometown heroes who were members of the military in the Civil War to present day. Through this memorial, the committee hoped to raise the public's educational awareness of the sacrifices made by those who serve, and their families.
After obtaining the property, the committee determined Grand Island's World War II Medal of Honor recipient, United States Army Pfc. Charles N. DeGlopper should be honored as the memorial's focal point.
After an exhaustive process of hiring nationally recognized local artist Susan Geissler to design and build the life-sized statue; raising funds for expanding and updating the killed-in-action monument; creating a Civil War and Gold Star tribute to all military branches, as well as granite memorial walls with inscriptions of the names of past, present and future Grand Island veterans, the memorial was dedicated in an elaborate ceremony in June 2021. A video recording of the ceremony is available on the DeGlopper Memorial Facebook page.
The plans also included areas on the memorial for individuals to purchase pavers or granite stones to honor and thank veterans in their inscribed words.
With the community's support, the committee raised approximately $750,000 and facilitated the realization of its initial components. Notably, of the total funds raised, only $28,000 was from a body of government via the office of former Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick. All other support was from cash and "in kind" services and materials provided by community members.
“It is the objective of the committee to proceed with the expansion and to ensure that we complete the DeGlopper Memorial site and maintain the property long-term,” said Elsie Martino, the tireless secretary of the DeGlopper Memorial expansion committee. “At this time, we are asking for the community’s continued support to make this site fully handicapped accessible by replacing all areas that are presently pea-gravel with sidewalks.”
The committee continues to accept tax-deductible donations for memorial wall inscriptions, pavers, and granite stones. Visit the DeGlopper Memorial website and click the tabs on the top right labeled "Memorial Wall" and "Pavers." Forms are also available at VFW Post No. 9249, 2121 Grand Island Blvd.
The prices are as follows:
•Memorial wall inscriptions: $100 (reserved for past/present Grand Island residents who have honorably served)
•Pavers (may be purchased to honor a loved one or in gratitude for veterans)
√ 12-inch-by-12-inch grey granite stone, $1,000
√ 8-inch-by-8-inch red paver, $375
√ 4-inches-by-8-inches red paver, $150
“The final phase of the DeGlopper Memorial expansion still needs to be completed,” Martino explained. “This Grand Island Memorial site is a place of distinction and honor for those who have served our nation. We kindly request our community’s continued support of this project, and we thank you. We hope to see you all on Memorial Day.”