STONINGTON — Six years ago, Pawcatuck resident Anthony D. Lombardo embarked on a mission to honor all Stonington veterans both past and present after learning that despite the “two towns, one community,” he and others from the Connecticut side of the Pawcatuck River could not get their names added to the living memorial at the entrance to Wilcox Park.
Lombardo, a Korean War Army veteran and VFW Post 1265 member, said he couldn’t be more proud of how things have transpired since 2020, when First Selectman Danielle Chesebrough first began showing strong support and Administrative Assistant Stacey Haskell took the lead to steer the all-volunteer effort to the finish line.
“Time is fleeting for many in our community and the Stonington Veterans Monument is a time capsule for all of us to remember in the future those who were not too busy to stand for righteousness and liberty,” Lombardo said.
Officials said this week that the long-term project is nearing completion. The website containing names, information and interactive components including video interviews was recently finished and the physical memorial is under construction. The Stonington Veterans Monument remains on schedule to be completed in the coming month and is still within budget, officials said.
A dedication ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. on Flag Day, June 14, at the monument, which is located in front of Stonington Police Headquarters, 173 S. Broad St. The ceremony will be open to the public, and those planning to attend are encouraged to bring a mobile device to interact with the monument.
Chesebrough said Wednesday the dedication will also mark the end of a long process that managed to incorporate local artists’ designs — including decorations such as red, white and blue flowers planted by members of the Stonington Garden Club — and was built in front of the Stonington Police Department to maximize exposure.
“From beginning to end, this was truly a communitywide project with people stepping up in many different areas to make Tony’s dream a reality,” she said. “Stacey has done a wonderful job of taking the lead and coordinating everyone, as well as the fundraisers that helped pay for the monument itself.”
The concept was developed in 2017 when Lombardo approached Westerly’s John Moretta about having his name added to the Wilcox Park memorial. When he found out he could not have his name added, he talked with Stonington town officials and initially found a partner with the Pawcatuck Fire Department. The two planned initially to build a monument at the corner of Pequot Trail and South Broad Street, where the town's World War I Memorial sits, before deed restrictions brought the effort to a halt.
The town became involved in 2020, with Chesebrough and Haskell both taking an interest, and volunteers came together to find a home at the police department.
Community donations and other fundraisers raised more than $146,000, and the town provided an additional $86,420 in American Rescue Plan Act funding, some of which was used for an art installation incorporating works of four local artists selected to decorate the eight-sided monument.
The monument and accompanying artwork was provided by local artists Sandra Alexander, Elizabeth Anderson, Gary Anderson and Sarah Downie.
Haskell said Thursday she is excited to unveil the final work in the coming weeks, having taken the project to heart and working over the past three years with Lombardo and Chesebrough, as well as countless volunteers and donors, to make the vision a reality.
“It has been very humbling to hear their stories and to be able to honor our veterans in this way,” Haskell said. “This incorporates a lot of aspects, from the artwork that tells the history of veteran services to the videos that share stories from our local veterans.”
In December, volunteers and town officials collaborated with SEC-TV to produce a series of video interviews centering on the achievements and experiences of local veterans.
The monument will also include a surrounding sidewalk still to be built and is expected to include the names of 6,000 past and present Stonington residents who have served in a branch of the military. Those names will be contained on an interactive scroll rather than on the monument or sidewalks.
While the concrete base has already been installed and much of the landscaping completed, the physical monument itself will be delivered and placed in early June. The monument will then be roped off until the dedication ceremony, officials said.
Any names of residents not yet recognized on the monument will then be added as a part of an annual ceremony each year. Those who know someone who served and is not represented is encouraged to contact officials at at VeteransMonument@Stonington-ct.gov.
For more information, including a list of all veterans and donors, visit https://www.stonington-ct.gov/selectmens-office/pages/stonington-veterans-monument-project.
“None of this would have been possible without the help of all our generous volunteers and donors,” Haskell said. “We are thrilled to see things taking shape and look forward to seeing it all come together.
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