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Naperville is set to construct Gold Star Families Memorial at Veterans Park


Naperville welcomes the community to lay the foundation for a Gold Star Families Memorial. Naperville Freemasons answered the call.  (Photo courtesy Gold Star Families Memorial Committee)

Update, Jan. 9, 2023 / Due to circumstances and delivery challenges beyond any Napervillian’s control, the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is set to be dedicated during 2023 Memorial Day Weekend. The committee has been meeting to coordinate and plan the program to be held early in the afternoon on Sat., May 27, 2023. 

Landscaping is taking shape at Veterans Park to enhance the base where the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument will be set. Thanks to Lew Breese for coordinating the effort.

During the first week in June, landscaping was begun around the base for the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, the first to be completed by the Woody Williams Foundation in Illinois. The dedication has now been scheduled for 2023 Memorial Day Weekend. When exact details are in place, this site will let you know. Thanks for your interest in this landmark project. (PN Photo)

Update, May 18, 2022 / Plans are moving right along for the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument at Veterans Park. The dedication of the monument is planned for Sun., Aug. 7. The exact time and program will be announced soon. Thanks to everyone who has been inquiring.

Charles Smith titled his work as “A tribute to” Gold Star Families. (PN Photo)

Update, Sept. 26, 2021 / The printed program for the ground-breaking event of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in Veterans Park was enhanced by artwork by Charles Smith and Troy Biegum, two artists from Little Friends Inklude Studio.

PN Photo

Update, Sept. 17, 2021 / History has been in the making at Veterans Park where the Naperville Gold Star Families Memorial Monument will be located. The groundbreaking and dedication ceremony is set for Sun., Sept. 26. Music by the Naperville Municipal Band will begin at 1:45PM, followed by the ceremony at 2PM. The public is welcome. Attendees may want to bring a collapsible chair.

Update, Aug. 11, 2021 / Generous donations continue to be received that will facilitate the construction of a Gold Star Families Memorial monument at Veterans Park, located at 303 E. Gartner Road, in Naperville.

The Naperville Freemasons have pledged $34,000 of financial support to the memorial, a project of the Woody Williams Foundation, that will be erected at the west end of Veterans Park to honor the Naperville families of men and women who sacrificed their lives while serving in the military. 

Another notable and appreciated contribution of $10,000 came from Naperville Responds For Veterans, organizers said.

PN Photo

During the Naperville Responds for Veterans inaugural festival, the Naperville Salute, held as a tribute for Independence Day, members of the American Legion Riders sold R.E.D. (Remember Everyone Deployed) t-shirts, proceeds of which benefited the Gold Star Families Memorial, too.

The Legion Riders also have sold R.E.D. shirts during events at the VFW as well as at Quigley’s Irish Pub that amounted to an initial donation of $7,000. Sales continued during the Naperville Irish Fest and soon R.E.D. shirts will be available at Last Fling over Labor Day weekend.

A dedication ceremony is planned for 2PM Sun., Sept. 26, at Veterans Park.

Update, April 28, 2021 / The Naperville Freemasons have announced that in recognition and honor of Oliver Julian Kendall, their Masonic Brother, “Our Fraternal organization has committed a significant amount to put the Naperville Gold Star Families Memorial funding over the top,” said Paul Felstrup, a member of Naperville’s oldest service organization.

“Oliver Julian Kendall was our Masonic Brother back in the early 1900s and we consider ourselves a Gold Star Family,” Felstrup explained, noting that Naperville Masonic Temple Association Board of Directors President Don Cowart presided over the meeting that unanimously voted to support the important award to Century Walk, allowing the project to move forward.

Born in Naperville on December 30, 1888, Oliver Julian “Judd” Kendall became an American hero. Written reports note that on May 25, 1918, at age 28, Kendall was captured leading an infantry patrol of 50 men to string barbed wire near the front of American defensive positions. With full knowledge of what days later would become, the first American offensive of World War I, an attack on the village of Cantigny, France, Kendall refused to talk to the enemy that had taken him prisoner. His refusal to divulge information was considered “the most vital single incident of the entire war.”

Kendall is honored locally by the Naperville VFW, Naperville Judd Kendall Memorial Way, Kendall Park and the Oliver Julian Kendall Elementary School in School District 204.

Kendall is buried in France. The opportunity to support the Naperville Gold Star Families Memorial will help tell this story about one of Naperville’s fine young men as well as all other heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom, added Felstrup.

“This is wonderful news!” emailed Jennifer Slown on behalf of the The Naperville Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Committee.  

Note that as plans move forward, fundraising for the Gold Star Families Memorial, such as the “Remember Everyone Deployed” t-shirt sale and photo promotion (details coming soon), will continue. Additional funds will help cover incidental costs such as installation, dedication, long-term care and maintenance as well as other unforeseen expenses, according to Century Walk officials.

In related news at Veterans Park, the Naperville Park District is planning to renovate the driveway apron and pavers as part of several improvements in progress this spring. The driveway work requires temporary closure of the parking lot from Thurs., April 29, to Mon., May 10.  The 2021 improvements also include installation of new flagpoles and uplighting. Replacement of the flagpoles began in February and the entire project is planned to be complete by Memorial Day, May 31.

Update, April 17, 2021 / Click here for a photo tour of the Gold Star Families Memorial located in a park in Lafayette, Ind. On April 15, Lew Breese, Marty Walker and Jim Hoch took a whirlwind trip to Lafayette, Indiana, to visit their Gold Star Family Memorial, akin to the one being planned for Naperville. Of course, Hoch took photos that he posted on line for the world to see and share.

Photo by James Hoch

“The park is definitely going to be something special as a Veterans Memorial, including this Gold Star Family Memorial,” noted Hoch.

Update, April 11, 2021 / The Naperville Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Committee is in the home stretch of fundraising. In partnership with Naperville’s Century Walk Corporation and the Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, organizers say they soon will have a beautiful granite monument erected in Veterans Park honoring the sacrifices of the surviving family members of local service members, also known as “Gold Star Families.”  This monument would be the first of its kind in Illinois. 

The committee includes American Legion Post 43 members Lew Breese and Jennifer Slown, as well as Naperville Gold Star Family member Jan Bienfang. 

“We have been very busy the last few months working with the City of Naperville and the Naperville Park District for approval and fundraising efforts,” noted Slown in a news release.  

“I am pleased to announce, we have raised roughly $45k of the $77k required for material, construction, and long-term maintenance for the monument,” added Slown. “We are still roughly $30k short of our goal and are asking for the Naperville and surrounding community to help support this effort.”  

Every bit helps. No donation is too small or too large to assist in climbing “closer to building this incredible monument for the loved ones of our Fallen,” Slown stated. “While COVID has impacted many, the families of our Fallen Warriors will still be honored for the enduring sacrifice of their loved one.”

Donations welcome via check or online with gratitude

Individuals able to support this Naperville effort may donate for in one of two ways: 

1. Check via the Naperville Century Walk Corporation: Checks made payable to “Naperville Century Walk”, memo line “GOLD STAR MEMORIAL” and mailed to: Century Walk, 34 Chicago Ave # B2, Naperville, IL 60540.

2. Online via the Woody Williams Foundation at hwwmohf.kindful.com/?campaign=1064773

In addition, two documents below explain more about the monument and this effort:
Request for Donation Letter and Monument Press Release.

For more information regarding Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, visit www.hwwmohf.org.

Find Naperville’s Century Walk at www.centurywalk.org and throughout Naperville at 51 outdoor locations.

The view from the back of the Gold Star Memorial will open into Veterans Park. (Photo courtesy Gold Star Memorial Committee)

Original Post, Dec. 11, 2020 / An important, impactful memorial will soon grace the land of Naperville, thanks to a grassroots effort of citizens, working in collaboration with the Naperville Park District.

The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a project of the Woody Williams Foundation, will be erected at the west end of Veterans Park, located at 303 E. Gartner Road. Expected to be completed sometime next year, the monument will honor the Naperville families of servicemen and servicewomen who sacrificed their lives while serving in the military.

“Gold Star families bear the burden of grief long after the war has ended,” notes Jennifer Slown, Co-chair of the Gold Star Committee who serves as a Captain of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Slown is one of several Naperville residents coming together to execute this memorial, which will be one of at least 63 across the country. Efforts to realize Gold Star Families Memorial monuments are currently underway in 77 other communities as well.

Gold Star Families Memorial monuments are 6 feet high, 16 feet long, with tributes two-sided tributes fabricated from black granite. One side bears a large gold star with the words “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument … A tribute to Gold Star Families and relatives who sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom.”

Gold Star Families Memorial monuments are currently underway in 77 other communities, organizers of the Naperville effort said. (Photo courtesy Gold Star Memorial Committee)

Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice

The other side tells a story through the four granite panels: Homeland, Family, Patriot, and Sacrifice. The scenes on each panel are a reflection of the community’s Gold Star Families and their fallen heroes. At the center of this tribute is a silhouette of a military servicemember who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. Each monument includes a granite explanation marker, which serves to educate visitors about the monument design, meaning, and local committee.

Organizers welcome all citizens of the Naperville area to be a part of the completion of this memorial project. Donations to benefit the initiative can be made at hwwmohf.kindful.com/?campaign=1064773.

Learn more about the Naperville Gold Star Families Memorial Monument effort at hwwmohf.org.

Since 1989, flags have been flying high at Veterans Park to recognize all who served us well in the military, past and present. Veterans Park, located along Gartner Road, just north of Washington Street, also has been selected as the site for the Gold Star Memorial Monument. (PN File Photo, Veterans Day 2020)

Woody Williams Foundation

The Woody Williams Foundation is a charitable 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that pursues specific endeavors and goals through the vision of Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams. The Foundation encourages, with the assistance of the American public and community leaders, establishing permanent Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments in communities throughout the United States, conducting Gold Star Families Outreach across the country, providing Living Legacy scholarships to eligible Gold Star Children, and advocating for educational benefits for all Gold Star Family members.

The impact of the Foundation’s work helps to raise public awareness about Gold Star Families’ enduring sacrifice and the ultimate sacrifice made by their loved ones. The Foundation wishes to educate the community about these sacrifices, reminding us all that freedom is not free.

Original story and photos submitted by Lisa Murtaugh Gangi for the Gold Star Memorial Committee. Updates provided by Jennifer Sloan and Lew Breese. (PN Photos)

Last Updated, Jan. 9, 2023

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PN Editor
An editor is someone who prepares content for publishing. It entered English, the American Language, via French. Its modern sense for newspapers has been around since about 1800.