Cemetery group discusses monument issue

By Tom Joyce - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com
The toppled World War I memorial honoring those killed in that conflict apparently will remain on its side until at least August. - Tom Joyce | The News

The plight of a war memorial recently struck by an alleged hit-and-run driver is being addressed by a city cemetery group and veterans organization, but apparently will remain on the ground in the meantime.

It was a topic for discussion at a Wednesday afternoon meeting of the Mount Airy Cemetery Commission, which oversees the city-owned Oakdale Cemetery where the monument is located. It honors military members from Surry County who made the supreme sacrifice during World War I, with 30 names listed altogether.

It was dedicated by the local American Legion on July 4, 1936, and earlier graced a site at the intersection of Taylor and Orchard streets near downtown Mount Airy. The memorial later was moved to the cemetery on North Main Street.

The granite marker that is 4 to 5 feet tall was struck by a vehicle on May 17 and toppled from its foundation. Nearby tombstones also were damaged, and the site has remained untouched since then due to questions surrounding liability and ownership.

This present condition of the monument to local war dead has drawn concerns from the public.

After addressing the matter Wednesday, the Cemetery Commission, a five-member group that meets quarterly, voted to try to identify the structure’s ownership as part of the process to remedy the situation.

Since the meeting, city Grounds and Maintenance Supervisor Michella Huff, who manages Oakdale Cemetery, said that local Jesse B. Jones Post 123 of the American Legion has been verified as the owner. The possibility of another organization being involved had been raised.

Huff added Thursday that research after the meeting revealed the war memorial was part of a land swap in which city-owned lots at Oakdale Cemetery were exchanged for the Taylor-Orchard street property where it formerly stood.

She cited a deed from 1964 which was redone in 1971.

It was disclosed during Wednesday’s meeting that the May incident marked the third time the monument has been knocked over at its present location.

The meeting was attended by veteran Rawley King, a longtime member of the local American Legion who has served as commander of its Honor Guard.

King mentioned that the group might be interested in moving the monument to Veterans Memorial Park on West Lebanon Street.

American Legion officials will be meeting on the second Tuesday in August and plan to discuss the matter then.

The Cemetery Commission is expected to convene immediately afterward for final details.

Yet it appears that the memorial will remain as is in the interim, due to no plan emerging Wednesday for any short-term efforts to get it upright again.

“So everything is sort of on hold,” Huff said.

Along with the war memorial, tombstones at Oakdale Cemetery were damaged during the crash, including those of former city commissioners Charles Lowry and his son Frank, and the final resting places of Jesse and Frances Smith.

Mrs. Smith was a longtime employee of Workmen’s Federal Savings and Loan and Jesse Smith was a veteran of World War II.

Repairs at the grave sites also remain up in the air until the liability questions are settled.

“It is an insurance problem,” Mayor David Rowe said Thursday. In addition to serving as mayor, he is a member of the cemetery group.

“I certainly wish we could get the World War One monument off the ground,” Rowe said.

He explained that its size is such that it could not be moved by a couple of guys and would require equipment such as a boom truck.

The toppled World War I memorial honoring those killed in that conflict apparently will remain on its side until at least August.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_Mo-grave-this.jpgThe toppled World War I memorial honoring those killed in that conflict apparently will remain on its side until at least August. Tom Joyce | The News

By Tom Joyce

tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.