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Letter to the Editor: 'Deep Divide in Philosophy' About Wenham War Memorial

John Perkins, the executor of the estate that has made a significant donation towards the construction and maintenance costs of a Wenham War Memorial, says that veterans and not the "empowered minority" should decide on the memorial's design.

To the Editor:

Just for some additional clarification, the funds (for the Wenham War Memorial) are from the estate of Winthrop Perkins, who was a veteran of WWII and saw duty in England, France, Belgium, Holland and Berlin, Germany during 1942-1945.

He was a proud veteran and a member of the Perkins family that has lived in Wenham for 10 generations dating back to 1689.  His estate left approximately $286,000 to the town of Wenham, $143,000 to the Cemetery Perpetual Care Fund and another $143,000 to the Wenham Veterans ($60,000 towards the building of a war memorial and $83,000 towards a perpetual care fund for maintenance of all Wenham war memorials).

His bequest relating to the Veterans was documented by a letter of agreement dated May 18, 2009 and signed by all Wenham Selectman, which at the time of the gift were John Clemenzi, Lawrence Swartz, and Harriet Davis.

The agreement contains various conditions that include a requirement that a majority vote of the war memorial committee is necessary before any funds may be spent. Another condition requires the executor of his estate, John F. Perkins, to be a member of the committee.

The recent resignation of Bruce Blanchard is the second veteran that has resigned from the committee and clearly shows a deep divide in philosophy between the veterans and the empowered minority of the Town Hall Building Committee, which has refused to listen to the wishes of the veterans regarding the design of the memorial.

Don Luxton, who was the head of the Norman Prince Post of the American Legion in Wenham and a former member of the committee, also recently resigned due to similar frustrations.

As noted in the above response, the veterans feel very strongly regarding the symbolism of the sculpture of the globe and eagle proposed to be used on the top of the memorial. This sculpture has been used throughout the country for similar veteran and other patriotic memorials.

The empowered minority has expressed concern that the eagle landing on the globe is not appropriate symbolism and the eagle is not a “friendly eagle.” The designer has informed the committee that the eagle in the sculpture is landing on the United States and signifies members of the military returning home safely.

A rough drawing of the proposal by the Veterans is included in the July 22 Patch article titled “”

Something is wrong with a process that creates a committee that includes veterans to design a veterans memorial only to have them resign in frustration and be told that their design and symbolism are not appropriate.  The empowered minority of the Town Hall Building Committee and a hired landscape architect are simply not more qualified than veterans themselves to design a “veterans memorial.”

We all enjoy the benefits given to us by the sacrifices of veterans and they simply wish to create a memorial that prominently remembers these sacrifices made to preserve freedom and democracy for all Americans. They deserve the respect to be allowed to have significant input in the design of their monument - the veterans need the help of the community at large to win this battle and would greatly appreciate your support.

Sincerely,

John F. Perkins

Newell Ficker July 31, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Newell Ficker This is one man's wishes and I believe his intentions are to Remember and Honor all Veterans. Not the "do gooders" of the world and how they got their own way. Win's hard earned and saved money over a life time is a blessing to the town and it's local Veterans, as large or as small as it my be. So it is very fitting for such a proud man. Please "Respect" his wishes along with his wife, Rosemarry I am sure! Thank you, John Perkins for all your hard work.
Mike Curtis August 01, 2011 at 04:32 PM
I have been studying bald eagles in the wild and sculpting these majestic birds for Veterans Memorials, schools, city and government agencies for 40 years. I am a U.S. military veteran myself. During WWII my father was a test pilot and my uncle (also an artist) sacrificed his own life on the battlefield. My design, which depicts our national symbol and sculptural globe, is intended to honor our soldiers and veterans who now serve and have served while based in countries throughout the world and the eventual return home of these brave men and women who serve to protect us. My studio is located in an area which enables me to observe bald eagles in nature. I often watch the eagles as they return from their flight and prepare to come in for a safe and secure landing. With the design of this sculpture I have accurately depicted the position of the landing eagle and intentionally positioned the eagle to be returning home to the United States, to show our appreciation and respect to those who have served as they return home to their families. I pride myself on working hard to create bald eagles which are accurate, realistic, and artistic in design. I often work directly with veterans and their families, planning the design for their memorial, and I feel honored to do so. I have never encountered a situation where individuals have inaccurately interpreted the look of the eagle, or the true meaning of the design, and upon doing so decide that the veteran's wishes should not be met.
r August 03, 2011 at 01:51 AM
This is what government bureaucracy does best. They take tax money to hire a bunch of sensitivity trained "do-gooders" to go up against our war heros who are volunteering their own time and money to give back to the community. Yes, they put their lives on the line for you, and your proposed "friendly" Teddy Bear statue.
Bruce Blanchard August 03, 2011 at 02:44 PM
I resigned from the War Memorial Committee in order to “step out of the way”, as I felt that my strong opinion that this memorial was to honor veterans might be hindering the process of securing a compromise for the design. After seeing that 88 out of 100 respondents to the Patch poll are in favor of the War Memorial Committee designing the memorial, as well as the comments from the sculptor, Mike Curtis, and others, I have come to realize that the Selectmen, Building Committee and Historic District Commission are out of touch with what the public wants and feels is right. It seems that the “empowered minority” has all the control but none of the support of the majority. It is time for the public, and veterans in particular, to stand up and be heard. Voice your opinion, as this is what we fought for – freedom and the rights of the people to not have to succumb to the demands of a government which is out of touch with reality. This IS about the veterans and how they should be honored. Wenham should have a memorial that stands out and draws attention, so we can show everyone how much we appreciate the veterans’ service and sacrifice.
Louis DiSanto August 08, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Perhaps it is time to defer to the eagle. Even a birdbrain with a birds-eye view can surely see that the decision should be made by the War Memorial Committee. It is a no brainer that they are the ones who deserve to call the shots, heard round the town, on this matter. Lou DiSanto Unfortunately I am not a veteran but I am the proud son-in-law of a Korean War Veteran and son of a WWII vet and I am grateful to all veterans who have, and continue to make, sacrifices, that allow us the privilege of freedom we enjoy.

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