Perhaps, if you’ve taken a walk on the Ohio River side of the city’s famous flood walls, maybe particularly around the recent Memorial Day holiday, you may have noticed its absence. Or perhaps you noticed the hazard cones set around its former location.
Having decided that location was no longer a safe one, Donna Lewis of the city’s Memorial Day Association, said her group temporarily mothballed the monument for Portsmouth military personnel lost at sea, a monument that once sat at the top of the hillside leading up from the Ohio River, probably a few hundred yards east of the site of the city’s annual River Days celebration.
“We’ve talked about moving that for a few years now,” Miller said, adding the base of the monument “was in really bad shape” and no longer safe. She said there were worries persons putting any weight on the decorative fencing surrounding the memorial could end up tumbling down the hill next to and behind it.
For now, the memorial, consisting of a couple of different stones, at least one commemorating Portsmouth veterans lost at sea and another listing the names of persons responsible for initially putting together the memorial, are safely tucked away in a storage facility.
Miller said the plan is to relocate the full memorial to a new safer location in York Park, a small city facility which sits along the Ohio to the left of the stage used for the annual River Days concerts. Somehow appropriately, the memorial will sit much closer to the Ohio River than it did previously.
For those who don’t know, York Park consists of a few picnic tables and playground equipment for younger visitors. Miller said a 5-by-7 foot slab will be constructed to act as a new support for the memorial. She noted the location is surrounded by trees offering shade to visitors, something that was not available at the memorial’s former location.
Materials and construction work on the slab are being donated by local businessman Mike Malone.
“It’s on hold for right now,” Miller stated, adding Malone has other professional obligations he needs to fulfill before taking on the York Park project. Miller added some planners are talking about placing a bench or two around the memorial.
“Maybe we will give people a place to sit down, possibly have their lunch, or just a place to sit, look at the memorial and think,” Miller said.
Miller added it is not clear when what might be called the Navy Memorial first appeared alongside the Ohio River. It was the brainchild of local resident Bill Rush. Rush and his son cared for the memorial for many years, she added, though both have now passed. Miller said the Memorial Day Association hopes to hold a small ceremony marking the re-dedication of the memorial, whenever that happens, complete with a color guard from one of the local American Legion posts. She also hopes to invite Bill Rush’s widow.
Miller noted while the memorial carries the names of those who helped build it, for practical reasons it does not bear the name of Portsmouth sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice. For one thing, Miller contended finding all those names would be a significant task. Secondly, those who have looked into the issue concluded a much larger memorial would be needed in order to include all of the appropriate names.
As for her involvement, Miller said she has been a member of the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary since 1971. Her father and grandfather were both veterans. She said she met someone at the American Legion who talked her into joining the Portsmouth Memorial Day Association.
Not totally incidentally, Miller said the Memorial Day group could use a few new members. She said the organization usually begins meeting once a month in January to plan Portsmouth’s various Memorial Day events. Anyone interested in joining the Memorial Day Association can call Miller at (740) 353-3904.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370- 0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.