The Delaware Veterans Memorial Plaza is expected to open next Memorial Day, but one of its elements — a restored World War I cannon — was unveiled earlier this week.
The cannon, which was removed from the Point in August 2013, was restored by employees of Wanner Metal Worx, 525 London Road. Wanner donated hundreds of man hours, valued at $30,000, to restore the cannon at no cost.
“There was a lot of stuff I had to build,” said fabricator Frank Lewis Jr. “A lot of it was bent and twisted. Some days it took all day to get a bolt out.”
“The paint color is authentic to the period. This will last a lifetime,” said industrial special coating specialist Marty Kane. “I’m a vet, so I know what it means.”
“It’s safe to say it’s never looked this beautiful,” said Steve Cuckler of the cannon.”We’re very thankful to Wanner Metal Worx because they were the first organization to hit the beach and say we want to be part of the Veterans Memorial.”
Cuckler, a former Delaware City Council member who heads the plaza committee, said the wheels were authentically made by Woodland Coach, an Ohio-based Amish company. The law firm of Rinehart, Rishel & Cuckler paid for the wheels.
The 5,000-pound, 15-centimeter heavy field howitzer cannon was originally made in 1893 by Krupp and used by the Germans in World War I. It was captured by the allies, and by a proclamation of Congress, awarded to the city of Delaware.
“It’s been a part of the city since the 1920s,” Cuckler said. He said the cannon had been displayed at the Point due to the number of citizens on the east side of the city who served in 42nd Rainbow Division. Local military historian Jim Titus said the cannon has been at the Point since 1937.
“During World War II, there was a great need for scrap metal, but it was saved, and here we are today,” Cuckler said.
“Now it’s final resting place will be prominent in the memorial,” said Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle at the unveiling. “Thank you from the bottom of all our hearts in Delaware.”
At one time, the plaza had been slated to open today, but delays have kept the project from moving forward.
“I apologize to the public that we were going to have it done Wednesday,” said Councilman Joe DiGenova, “but due to circumstances, we’re kind of behind schedule. Our target date is Memorial Day 2016.”
“We are going to be putting this (the cannon) in the memorial,” said Bill Morgan, managing partner at Delaware-based 2K Construction Services. “We’ll be working on it for the next few months, trying to get everything ready to go.”
Landscape architects Ashley Swazuk and Josh Helms of OHM Advisors are the project designers for the Veterans Memorial Plaza who won a week-long contest for the opportunity. Both have worked on memorials before, but felt Delaware’s was special.
“The city’s been so involved with it,” Helms said. “It’s been a fun process.”
“I think their dedication to the residents has really been a different experience than other locations,” Swazuk said.
The plaza’s design has six main features: a circle of remembrance; walk of solitude; ribbons of honor; stars of reflection; walls of gratitude; and a people plaza.
The circle of remembrance is a central, elevated focal point of the plaza with an eternal flame sculptural element. The walk of solitude is a pathway connecting the two sides of the plaza following the form of the circle of remembrance, a quiet area for reflection.
The 12 ribbons of honor resemble stripes on the U.S. flag and feature removable pavers that can be engraved to honor service men and women. The stars of reflection are at the end of each ribbon and are illuminated at night. They commemorate the 12 wars the United States has fought in, with additional space to include future wars.
The walls of gratitude would allow personal letters and photographs from families and friends of service men and women to be shared with the public. The materials on display would be changed regularly.
The plaza costs $500,000 to build, funded by a state grant, donations, and the city of Delaware.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.