Bruce Blanchard, the co-chairman of the Wenham War Memorial Committee, resigned Friday, saying he may have “hindered the process” of reaching a compromise on the memorial design.
“I have come to realize that there is a distinct difference in philosophy and focus concerning the proposed War Memorial," Blanchard wrote in a letter to the Board of Selectmen on Friday. "I have long held that the sole purpose of War Memorial is to honor the veterans; the Selectmen, Building Committee and Historic District Commission are also concerned with 'does it conform the Master Plan?' and 'is it appropriate for the center of Wenham?'”
Blanchard has been a leader in developing and finding a home for the war memorial for the past several years. In frustration, , threatening to resign in frustration that other town committees continue to oppose the design for the memorial that the veterans support.
The threat of resignation became a reality on Friday.
“It is therefore with deep regret that I resign from the War Memorial Committee, effective today. Perhaps, with my resignation, the compromise which you so fervently want can be obtained," Blanchard continued in the resignation letter to Selectmen. "As one of the leaders of the War Memorial Committee it could very well be that I have hindered the process because of my strong beliefs.”
It's not immediately clear whether Blanchard's resignation could delay or speed up the town's efforts to reach a consensus on the design. The Board of Selectmen had set a deadline of early September.
The battle over the design of the war memorial has been focused on the use of an eagle and globe on top of the monument. Jim Howard, chairman of the Historic District Commission, said Thursday night he would also like for the monument to be thinner and taller.
The monument is planned for a memorial park where the car barn lot is today at the intersection of Main and Arbor streets, across from .
The veterans, who make up the War Memorial Committee, “fell in love” with the design that included the eagle and globe, Blanchard told the Historical District Commission Thursday night.
Almost no one on the Historic District Commission or on the town's Building Committee, both of which can veto the design by the war memorial committee, like the eagle and globe - particularly the globe. Some Historic District Commission members said the design looked like the eagle, which symbolizes America, was dominating the world, as symbolized by the globe.
Blanchard said the memorial is to honor those from Wenham who served in wars around the world. The globe signifies that these wars were not fought in America, he said.
“You don't know what the veterans want,” Blanchard told the commission members and John Darling, chairman of the Building Committee, who attended the historic commission meeting Thursday.
Blanchard said he has tried to compromise on a design which will accommodate both philosophies as was requested by the Board of Selectmen.
"It has become increasingly clear to me that the two philosophies are contradictory; The aspects of the design which I most endorse, are exactly the aspects that others find most objectionable," Blanchard wrote in his resignation letter. "It seems that there is little or nothing in the revised design which meets the criteria of the Board of Selectmen, Building Committee and the Historic District Commission.”
Other memorial committee members have been even more outspoken in their criticism of the town committees over the way the town has treated their design of the memorial. The battle over the war memorial design grew so heated last month . They put the Building Committee, not the War Memorial Committee, in charge of the design and urged cooperation among the two groups.
Former Selectmen chairman Larry Swartz was brought in to help the war memorial committee negotiate with other town boards and commissions.
“Bruce Blanchard's resignation today is the latest example of the toll taken on the members of the War Memorial Committee as a result of the frustration endured over the past three years as the (War Memorial Committee) has worked to design a war memorial that properly honors Wenham's veterans," Swartz said in an e-mail on Friday.
Blanchard's resignation may also jeopardize the funding for the memorial, which was to be paid for from private funds. The War Memorial Committee was planning to raise the money from private donors, including the John Perkin estate, which has allocated $60,000 for the memorial and a maintenance fund of $84,000. The Perkin funds are controlled by a majority of the War Memorial Committee.