Local veterans groups have their sights set on spiffing up Blaine Memorial Park, and they are looking for a little help from the community to make it happen.
American Legion Post 86 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9474 are partnering with the city of Blaine to renovate and restore the monument that honors the men who served in WWI or who were killed in action in WWI, WWII, Korea or Vietnam.
“We want to put it back in good-looking shape,” said former Blaine resident and Vietnam veteran Denny Thibeault. “We’re
trying to make people aware of what’s out there.”
Thibeault said the wear and tear from the weather and time has taken its toll on the memorial plaques and vintage anti-aircraft gun that stand just outside the Blaine Police Department on the corner of H and 3rd streets in downtown Blaine.
The bronze plaque, dedicated in 1943, hangs on the west side of the Blaine police station and wears a heavy patina that mars the names of the men who went to fight in WWI. “It’s hard to read some of them,” veteran Wes Thompson said, leaning in to get a better look at the individual names that will sound familiar to anyone who has traveled Blaine’s streets. “This plaque was on the front of old city hall for decades,” he said, reaching out to touch one of the tarnished names.
The group plans to take down the plaque and ship it to Seattle to be professionally cleaned. The refinishers will then add a finish coat to help ward off patina for years to come.
“It’s been 47 years since the memorial has had any major upgrades,” Thibeault said. “The names are even wearing off the KIA memorial.” Thibeault helped build the KIA memorial, a cement and marble structure, in 1967, and said it holds great personal significance, since his brother was one of the first names added to the Vietnam plaque. “My mother took the sheet off of it when it was dedicated,” he said. “It was very emotional.”
Thibeault said that in addition to dressing up the plaques, the group wants to fix safety hazards that the 1943 90mm M1 anti-aircraft gun poses for the community. He noted that some of the supports for the 2,700-pound cannon, along with the metal grating that surrounding it, were rusting through, and could cause injury to someone. The group intends to install stanchions and rope barrier around the gun to deter children from climbing on the monument.
Public works director Ravyn Whitewolf said the city is happy to help with the project, and that her department will be assisting with the renovation by providing welding services, power washing and the installation of a new bench. “This project will not only improve the look of the memorial, but will improve public safety as well,” she said.
Thibeault estimated that it will cost close to $3,000 to restore the beauty and safety of the memorial, and those costs are lower than expected because of the city’s help. “We couldn’t ask for better cooperation,” Thibeault said. The group is also welcoming involvement from the community, Thibeault said, and will have a work party in the next few months to begin cleanup of the site.
Labor donations can be coordinated through Ron Rasmussen at 360/371-7311, and monetary donations can be given to the Blaine Veterans Memorial Fund can be made at Sterling Bank.