Richard Condon was a teenager when the first veterans memorial was dedicated in Flossmoor on April 1, 1945. That memorial disappeared a few years later without a trace.
A little more than 78 years later, on Wednesday, Aug. 9, he was present at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Flossmoor Veterans Memorial Wall of Honor.
Both occasions were memorable, he said.
“My dad was the post commander of the Illinois American Legion at that time, so that was kind of neat,” he said of the 1945 event.
For the local veterans honored by the new memorial, he said, “It should mean a lot to them. They’ve finally been recognized.”
The groundbreaking ceremony followed a 20-month fundraising campaign led by Flossmoor Veterans Memorial Inc. (FVM), a not-for-profit corporation that raised $100,000 to build the new memorial.
Condon’s daughter, Kris Condon, was a key member of the FVM campaign team, and reaching the milestone with her father by her side was important.
“This is very personal for me. This is a labor of love that’s been 78 years in the making,” she said. “This is really, really rewarding. And to have my 92-year-old father turn over a shovel of dirt, this is a really good day.”
The ceremony brought a crowd of community members. Paul Braun, former Flossmoor mayor and president of FVM, hosted the event.
He recalled that Richard Condon had approached him four years ago with the idea of creating a new memorial. The COVID-19 pandemic put plans on hold for a couple of years, but in 2021, FVM was formed and the fundraising campaign was launched.
In addition to Richard and Kris Condon, Braun offered special recognition to other members of the core group involved in the campaign, including John Beele, Anthony Manos, Jim Fornaciari, Josh Grenard, Robert Guilfoyle, Brian Driscoll, Gina LoGalbo, Eric Stockwell and Calvin Young.
Architect Michael Matthys of Flossmoor was not able to attend the event, but Braun read a description of his design.
“The plaza includes a circular area defined by a stone seat wall and five steel pillars that represent each of the armed forces, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Benches will be placed for rest and contemplation. The memorial will be a ceremonial location for events that honor our veterans.”
The footprint of the future memorial was marked with a white circle on the lawn adjacent to the podium.
He said Matthys was assisted in developing the vision for the memorial by several Flossmoor students, including Harry Komorowski, Bennett Matthys, Max Cuevas and Charlie Wachtel.
Braun announced that FVM would soon be launching an opportunity for the community to buy commemorative bricks to honor veterans by name.
Flossmoor Mayor Michelle Nelson thanked FVM leaders and everyone in the community who supported the project. She said veterans don’t just serve their terms, they continue to serve their communities, and she named about 10 veterans whose efforts make Flossmoor a better place.
“Building this memorial isn’t just for those who have served, it’s also for those who will serve someday,” she said. “It’s critically important that our youth see our village celebrate our veterans so that they may be inspired to take up a life of service and know that their hometown will celebrate and support them in this noble and selfless endeavor.”
Braun introduced two officials from America in Bloom, Executive Director Laura Kunkle and board Treasurer Marvin Miller, who also heads up the grant committee. The organization awarded FVM a $25,000 grant from a program it administers that is funded by CN Railway.
Kunkle said America in Bloom focuses on supporting environmental stewardship and heritage preservation.
“American in Bloom believes that great things happen through community involvement and civic engagement. And wow, has the community come out today!” she said. “This is our ninth of nine events we’ve been doing, and Flossmoor has the largest turnout. This project is obviously an incredibly special one to this community.”
Miller was joined by Kevin Donohue, manager of U.S. government affairs at CN, also delivered remarks.
“We’re honored to give the money to this and we’re honored to support the veterans cause,” Donohue said. “The money that CN gives only goes so far, but it’s really the work that everyone else has put in to make this happen.”
The railway also participated in the event by providing some rhythm as a CN freight train rumbled past during part of Braun’s introduction.