Historical Society works to revamp Veterans Memorial at Magnolia Cemetery

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 9/14/22

ORANGE PARK – Beneath the Veterans Memorial at Magnolia Cemetery there is a series of names, military branches and the years they served placed by service members from several branches or their …

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Historical Society works to revamp Veterans Memorial at Magnolia Cemetery

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Beneath the Veterans Memorial at Magnolia Cemetery there is a series of names, military branches and the years they served placed by service members from several branches or their families.

The memorial was completed in 2012. With time, the pavers have faded, and now the Orange Park Historical Society wants to replace them.

Society Treasurer Van Hogan said the first batch of pavers has been ordered and planned to be in place before Veterans Day on Nov. 11. One of the pavers honors former U.S. Senator Cdr. John McCain, who was stationed nearby and served 1957-1973, including some as a Prisoner of War.

The group then looked at other memorials in the area. They plan to use an artist specializing in etching with lasers. Some of the pavers were getting to the point where they were illegible, Hogan said.

“People will be able to see the difference,” Hogan said. “They looked really good when we put them in, but with the Florida weather hitting them for 10 years, the letters started to fade.”

Orange Park Historical Society President Cynthia Cheatwood said the support of community members allowed the Veterans Memorial to be maintained and improved. She listed the many contributors of the project, including the town of Orange Park, and Carolyn and Mike Day.

“With support from The American Legion Riders from Post 250 in Middleburg and the Daughters of the American Revolution, the memorial represents the gratitude we all have for the service and sacrifices of our veterans,” Cheatwood said.

There are three benches donated to the site. Recently, one of the back benches at the site was broken due to vandalism. The town and Jacksonville Memory Gardens stepped in.

“Somebody out there destroyed a bench last June,” Hogan said. “The town of Orange Park jumped right in and was able to replace it.”

One of Clay County’s touchstones is its 40,000-plus veteran community. To support patriotism and Veterans Day recognition from students, the society again has its essay contest. It helps students to contribute to the day, Hogan said.

“We solicit essays from the students and select three based on grade level,” Hogan said. “They receive a certificate and cash prize.”

The pavers cost $100 a piece. Hogan recalled receiving orders where people tell him the meaning behind a paver. Sometimes, it is because a service member didn’t have a headstone.

As of Wednesday morning, the group had raised more than $5,600 of its $12,000 goal. There will be a donor who will match dollar for dollar.

“It’s an expensive process,” Hogan said. “People who purchase these pavers, it’s very personal for them. That hits home and you want to make sure those folks are honored for their service and that they’re recognized.”

Pavers can be purchased at ophistory.org or by searching for “Veterans Memorial Of Orange Park, FL” on gofundme.com.

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