Westchester County Resurrects 102 Year-Old-World War I Memorial
Westchester County held a ceremony on Friday, August 4th rededicating memorial plaques and trees for those who gave their lives in World War I at the Westchester County Center. The event was hosted by Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Veterans Service Agency Director Ron Tocci.
The memorial, which rings the West Lot at the County Center, was partially dismantled when New York State used the lot to erect temporary medical facilities during the height of the COVID crisis.
History of the Memorial
The original memorial, first composed of trees without plaques, was first dedicated on Armistice Day, November 11, 1921. The original memorial was spearheaded by Frederick Gross, founder of American Legion Post 135 White Plains, to honor local soldiers who died in the war. At that ceremony, a parade featured veterans of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and the World War.
Many important and influential faces attended the 1921 memorial ceremony. William G. McAdoo, U.S. Treasurer under President Wilson, attended the ceremony. The Fort Slocum band provided the music. Fort Slocum on Davids Island in New Rochelle had been a major processing facility for soldiers heading overseas. A box of soil from the Belleau Wood battleground in France was brought to mix with the soil at the memorial.
The original memorial was moved, and a plaque was installed when the County Center was built and rededicated on Memorial Day in 1931.
Westchester County Rededicates Memorial to Fallen Soldiers of WWI
All of the original 49 plaques and trees have been restored by the Westchester County Parks Department, and the fallen soldiers were remembered Friday with a reading of their names by White Plains Mayor Tom Roach, Parks Department Commissioner Kathy O'Connor and Veterans Service Agency Service Officer Dan Griffin, who was instrumental in the effort to restore the memorial. Griffin is also Commander of White Plains American Legion Post 135, whose original commander, Frederick Gross, had first proposed the idea for the memorial after the war in 1919. You can see the full ceremony below.
Cynthia Abbott Kauffman, President of the White Plains Historical Society, Co-founder and President of Daughters of Liberty's Legacy and President of the American Legion Auxiliary, White Plains Post 135, said:
"It has been said that you die twice -- once when you leave this Earth, the second when the no longer say your name. Remember that each honor roll name that you hear today was a young man who lived, loved, served and died too soon."
County Executive Latimer said:
“Over a century ago, a commitment was made to honor the brave souls who laid down their lives. This commitment, established by our predecessors in County government, was rooted in the desire to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War through the installation of these plaques. It is our duty and responsibility to uphold the legacy of remembrance and gratitude for generations to come.”
Director Tocci said:
"Memories fade very quickly and maybe after a couple of generations people kind of forget what it's all about. They tend to, maybe on a special day once a year pay tribute and appreciation for the sacrifices soldier have made for their country. But their gift of patriotism and life is eternal and I think it's the duty of all the succeeding generations to understand and appreciate and not only remember but to pray for the souls of those who are not hear anymore, and pass that torch on to the younger generation and make them understand what America is truly all about."
The ceremony also included a reading of the World War I poem "In Flanders Field" by Michael Fix, U.S. Army Veteran and member of American Legion Leroy Gregory Post 979, Eastchester.