SUMMERVILLE —Looking around Summerville one day it occurred to Colleen Cooney that something was missing. There was no veterans’ memorial in the borough.
Inspired by her daughter, a veteran of 16 years service in Air Force, Cooney decided something should be done about filling that vacancy. The idea for the memorial came out of the Summerville Story Project. Cooney had compiled the section in the local history book and was surprised to learn how many people from the Summerville area had served in the military. “It occurred to me that we did not have a memorial to them and that just seemed so wrong,” she said. “Initially it seemed as though they would go along with it but now we are doing historical sign boards. I had to strike out on my own.”
She reached out to Vietnam veteran Russ Sweitzer who welcomed the challenge. Cooney, Sweitzer, Cheryl Furlong, Vietnam vet Paul Brown and Sweitzer’s wife, Sherry, formed the Summerville Veterans Memorial Committee and started planning. “All of these people stepped up,” said Cooney.
For Paul Brown this monument means “recognition.”
“There is no recognition for the people who served, past, present and future,” he said. “It’s not for me, it is for everybody who served. “
“It is our goal to erect a monument in honor of the veterans from Summerville and the surrounding communities from all conflicts,” said Russ Sweitzer.
It was not an easy road. Initially, the committee wanted the memorial to be placed alongside the Summerville Veterans Bridge. That plan was thwarted when a right-of-way could not be negotiated with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. “We felt it would have been the best site but, even with Rep. Cris Dush’s help, it could not be done,” said Cheryl Furlong.
The committee then looked at a portion of the vacant lot on Water Street. Once more, red tape strangled the plan. This time it was the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA acquired the land following the 1996 flood. FEMA rules bar the erection of any permanent structure on that land.
It appeared the project may have been dead in the water until a concerned citizen stepped up to save the day. Mayor Greg Furlong, the owner of Furlong Funeral Home in Summerville, offered an easement on his property along the Heathville Road opposite the Summerville Post Office.
The design was initially tailored to the bridge site which required a pentagon shape. With the change in location that configuration will be a square with the marble monument on one side. A 12- by 20-foot brick area will be surrounded on all sides by cement walks. Cheryl Furlong said the final design will depend on the level of community support. An expanded brick area, marble benches, additional walks and trees could be added.
The monument will have the emblems of all of the armed forces and a suitable legend. The bricks for the vets will be placed by the marker. The marker is being donated at cost by Furlong Monuments. A garden of U. S. flags will bear the markers for each of America’s conflicts.
“It is still a work in progress,” said Cheryl Furlong.
One of the fund raisers the group has initiated is a memorial brick project. For a donation of $100 a brick will be inscribed with the name of a veteran.
The bricks will be installed near the memorial. A separate section will be designated for civilians. Donations may be submitted to Summerville Veteran’s Memorial Fund, 255 Heathville Road, Summerville, PA 15864.
“We have had very strong interest,” said Russ Sweitzer. “It is going a little faster than we had expected.”
The group has requested financial support from the Brookville Patriots Association, which was established when the old V.F.W. building in Summerville was sold. The Summerville V.F.W. Post 8355 and Brookville Post 204 were consolidated on Sept. 16, 1997.
Russ Sweitzer said that there are 1,000 facer bricks available to be inscribed. Bricks were obtained from Earth Worx in Brookville and the Glen Gery Company in Summerville.
A groundbreaking will be conducted on Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. It is hoped that the monument can be dedicated by Memorial Day 2018.