I read your article in last weeks Loudoun Times-Mirror about the dedication of the new World War One Memorial plaque. Any reader could have thought that the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted to replace the plaque, then picked up a telephone and called the local foundry and ordered “one plaque please, make it look like the original.” In fact it took a team effort of Loudoun County citizens, a patriotic foundry owner and her staff, and over a year of effort to get this job done.
There were problems along the way that caused delays. This project would still be stalled in delay if any one in this team effort had “dropped the ball.”
Let me tell you about the team that got this project done.
It started with the patriotic citizens of Loudoun County. Regardless of political affiliation, race, or religion, they donated money to memorialize Loudoun County citizens who gave their lives, in military service, in defense of our country. It took a joint effort of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, the County Treasurer, and the Loudoun County Foreign War Memorial Trust Fund Advisory Committee to save the money that was left over from these projects into a special line in the county budget to be used only for the monuments.
The Trust Fund Advisory Committee had known for years that there were three names on the bottom of the World War One plaque that were segregated there because they were African-American. However, State of Virginia law did not allow local governments to make changes to these monuments until a new law went into effect on July 1, 2020. We, at the Trust Fund Advisory Committee, were anxious to get started with the project because we planned to dedicate the new plaque, in less than a year, on Memorial Day in May, 2021. The committee couldn’t take action, however, until the Board of Supervisors voted on the issue. One of our members had spoken to Mike Turner, a newly elected member of the Board of Supervisors, who said that he had recently become aware of the plaque and that he would bring it up to vote with the Board of Supervisors.
Once the Board of Supervisors voted to proceed with the replacement of the plaque they ordered the Loudoun County Department of General Services to put the project out to bid. General Services is the “Can Do” organization of the County Government. They time and again removed roadblocks. The Zimmerman Foundry of Pennsylvania was awarded the bid. Incidentally, many foundries didn’t even bid on the project because the “old world” skills of 100 years ago, necessary to complete the project, didn’t exist anymore. Enter Jeff Hall.
Jeff Hall is the sculpture who did the statute of Stanley Caulkins sitting on a bench in front of what had been Stan’s store in Leesburg. We visited Jeff’s studio in Lovettsville for any advice he could give us. He asked if the original plaque could be brought to his studio. The Department of General Services, of course, said “we can do that” despite the fact that the plaque weighed 500 pounds. The plaque would still not be complete if this step hadn’t been taken.
Jeff looked at the plaque under bright lights in his studio and found a tiny foundry mark that told us who made the original plaque. He then told us the mix of metals that he thought the plaque was made of. I felt like we were attending an autopsy of the plaque. We asked if he knew of anyone who could reproduce the beautiful world class scroll work, sword, and wreath that made the original plaque so unique. He said “let me think about it.” We made an appointment to return.
We returned to Jeff’s studio a few days later. He suggested that, rather than do the scroll work, sword, and wreath from scratch, it might be possible for him to make rubber molds of those features for the foundry to use. This was a solution to one of the biggest problems we had with making the new plaque.
We visited the foundry several times and emphasized to them that the new plaque had to be, at least, as good as the original plaque. The foundry had several failed pours of the plaque. They explained to us the problem that they were having. One employee reassured me that the new plaque would be better than the original. The President of the foundry, the granddaughter of the man who started the foundry in 1938, took us onto the foundry floor again to show us a piece of equipment that they bought that was crucial for them to finish the project.
From start to finish this project took a lot of dedicated people to go beyond what they normally would be expected to do. I think that they should be recognized.
Member, Loudoun County Foreign War Memorial Trust Fund Advisory Committee