Thursday, July 22, 2010

WWII memorial plan in final phases

Thursday, July 22, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Standing in the shadows of Heinz Field on the North Shore riverfront Wednesday morning, Mark Schneider opened his speech with a football analogy.

Speaking in front of a small crowd that included city officials, military veterans and family members, the president of the World War II Veterans of Allegheny County Memorial Fund spoke optimistically about the future.

"We're kind of in the red zone," he said. "We can see the goal line."

Through public and private donors, the organization has already raised $2.75 million of the estimated $4.5 million cost to construct the elliptical glass and granite memorial that will honor World War II veterans. It will be located on the riverfront, facing Downtown from just behind the "Great Lawn."

"We're in the final phases," Mr. Schneider said after the memorial's design was unveiled. "And we have a couple of fairly large grants that are pending."

Mr. Schneider said the executive board proceeded with Wednesday's announcement after the Richard King Mellon Foundation contributed a $300,000 grant, the largest private donation to date.

"It's huge," he said of the fundraising effort. "We wanted to get to a point where we got enough response from the private sector, whereas the public sector has been coming through for the past year with the caucuses investing in the project."

He said the four Pennsylvania caucuses contributed $500,000 each and private donors include UPMC and Highmark. A number of small donations were earned through the organization's calendar project, a sale of World War II commemorative calendars for $10 each.

The memorial, which was scheduled to be completed last March but was delayed due to financial concerns, is not only designed to honor the veterans but also to educate people, said board vice president John Vento, who served in the Army from 1943-46.

Plans call for a 52-panel memorial, made of glass and granite, that describes the war with images from the Pacific campaign flanking the panels on the west side and those from the European campaign covering the east side. Granite plaques will tell a narrative of the war, with the interior describing the region's history in the war and the exterior describing the world's history.

The organization is targeting Veterans Day next year for the completion of the project.

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