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Next phase set for Veterans Memorial Park

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Updated: November 26, 2012 7:16AM

ELGIN — Groundbreaking on the next phase of the riverfront Veterans Memorial Park will be held on Veterans Day, and the city council got a glimpse Wednesday evening of what that project will involve.

Dubbed “extending the honor,” the effort is set to include more signage and extend a concrete area in a circle about 25 feet and close to the Fox River’s shore so that floral tributes to military interred at sea can be more properly and easily provided.

Such tributes are as old as Elgin itself and used to take place off the Highland Avenue bridges, said Elgin historian Jerry Turnquist, who is an Ellis Middle School teacher and Phase II committee co-chairman.

The memorial is used for Memorial and Veterans Day programs. The park currently holds service flags and pillars marking all the branches of armed service, and another set that is a tribute to prisoners of war and those missing in action; 10 plaques marking wars and those who served in them, and other plaques honoring those who served, who worked or were educated in Elgin; and a rendering of the Combat Infantry Badge designed by Elgin sculptor and medalist Trygve Rovelstad.

“This is one memorial (in Elgin) that honors all (who served),” Turnquist said.

The park officially opened Veterans Day 2008, next to Gail Borden Public Library, 274 N. Grove Ave., and near the site where the city was founded in 1835.

More than three years in the making, the $750,000 project was funded by the city. It encountered several delays, including the city learning the original site under consideration — the city’s former public works yard north of the library and along the river — was contaminated with lead and petroleum-based chemicals. That led to downsizing the memorial‘s original design and moving the location to where it now stands.

For his part, Turnquist also was involved with the initial effort, along with the late Jack Cook, who chaired the first committee. Cook, who was 86 when he died in February 2011, had served 15 years as a Kane County Board member representing District 20, which covers the near-east portion of Elgin in Kane County. During his tenure on the board, he served eight years as forest preserve district president, from 1994 to 2002. Kane board members hold dual roles as forest preserve district commissioners.

Another key memorial advocate then was World War II veteran and hero Arthur E. Richoz, who died in May 2008 at the age 85. Richoz became a fixture at Elgin City Council meetings, keeping public awareness high of the importance of having a place to honor those who have served.

Richoz’s widow, Elinor, still frequently comes to council sessions and helped bring in money for the new work by selling collector pins for the cause. Her family also raised $10,000 for the upcoming build, and she is one of the members of the current committee.

Another $5,000 donation was given by Nancy Anderson, the Elgin United Civic Association and the John Ericsson Republican League. Anderson is the widow of the late Judge Donald Anderson, a former Merchant Marine who passed away in 2011 at the age of 81. The Elgin Rotary Club kicked in $10,000, too.

Thus far, the project has put about $56,000 in the bank and needs about $7,000 more to complete the work, Turnquist said Wednesday afternoon prior to the meeting. Any extra money brought in would go to extra amenities for the park, he noted.

Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda has been serving as city staff liaison on this phase of the project for more than a year. “The experience reaffirmed my respect for World War II and other veterans. Those involved in the effort were quite committed to it, and it has been an honor to work with them. I looked forward to the meetings we had,” Swoboda said Wednesday.

The Nov. 11 Veterans Day ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at the memorial park, with the groundbreaking set for 12:15 p.m. To obtain more information or to make a donation to the project, people can visit

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