07/18/10 — New war memorial rising from the ashes

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New war memorial rising from the ashes

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 18, 2010 1:50 AM

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Troy Herring

Wayne Memorial Association trustee John Lewis looks over one of the bronze plaques that used to be housed in the Wayne County Memorial Community Building.

A mass of brick and wood was not all that was lost when the Wayne County Memorial Community Building burned May 2, 2004.

A tribute to the county's sons who died defending freedom also was taken out of the pubic eye.

So after the Goldsboro City Council voted down plans to reconstruct the facility -- and memorial -- earlier this year, the trustees charged with overseeing money that came in as a result of the fire decided to move forward with their vision: to create a lasting tribute to those who made the "supreme sacrifice" in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.

And by Veterans Day, the board hopes that those who come across the site of the former Community Building, located at the corner of Walnut and William streets, will be drawn in to what they have constructed on land characterized as "hallowed grounds."

Members of the trustees for the Wayne Memorial Association recently unveiled a design for the Wayne Veterans Memorial, a site meant to pay homage to local heroes.

And their creation, designed by landscape architect Jim Davis, is set to include, among other features, a large granite map of Wayne County, a tribute to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, a pavilion, flags and the bronze plaques that were once housed in the building lost more than six years ago.

But the plaques might not have made it into the memorial had it not been for Gordon Combs, who, from his office at McLamb Monument Company, worked for weeks to rid them of signs that they had been victims of a major blaze.

"When I looked at them, they were just terrible," Combs said. "I never thought they'd come out this pretty."


Funding for the project will not be an issue, as much of the cost will be covered by insurance money that came in after the fire.

And trustee Ed Borden said the plans have already gone out for bid.

But before the board can complete its goal, it will need a little help from the public.

Thanks to Maegen Wilson, the county library's historian, a list has been compiled, one that details the name and hometown of nearly every son of Wayne who died at war. But certain information about many of these men is still unknown.

And Borden and his peers want to be sure that if people have been left out -- or added to the list falsely -- that those issues are resolved before the final piece of the monument, a large granite map that will be inscribed with the name and hometown of each local son lost, is completed.

"We want to make sure we get this thing right," said Borden, who remembers when bunks meant for traveling soldiers lined the inside of the Community Building. "Having all the names is going to be really important."

Just as it was decades ago when an effort to make those bronze plaques was undertaken and letters from widows and grieving family members flooded in from across the county to ensure their loved ones were not forgotten.

The site is, after all, as Borden learned at a meeting a few years ago, more than just the setting for an epic fire.

"We held a meeting to discuss the memorial ... and many of the people who came were veterans, you know, with their different hats on and everything," Borden said. "The term, hallowed ground, kept hitting us."