CHAPEL HILL — The Town Council had questions but approved a preliminary plan Monday for a veterans memorial at the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery.
Chapel Hill native and Vietnam veteran Rusty Edminster said he and others got their draft letters in 1962 and served their country. He has met many veterans since then; all of them sacrificed their time, and many had friends who sacrificed their lives, he said.
“I urge you, ladies and gentlemen, to approve this memorial, because it’s a permanent way for the town of Chapel Hill to say thank you for the time that veterans and their families sacrifice for the service of not only this community, but the United States,” he told the council.
The plan for the Chapel Hill Veterans Memorial, paid for with $18,000 from the town’s cemetery beautification fund, was designed by the Swanson and Associates firm and artist Michael Layne. It shows a grove of trees planted around a plaza of stone pavers with five 6-foot monuments at one end for each branch of the military. Lights illuminate the flag and trees at night.
The memorial plaza would be roughly the size of the Legion Road cemetery’s existing brick plaza, said Parks and Recreation Director Butch Kisiah.
Memorial Design Committee Chairman Jim Merritt, a former Town Council member, and Bruce Runberg, UNC’s associate vice chancellor for facilities planning, would lead a fundraising effort to build and maintain the memorial. Kisiah estimated about $300,000 would be needed to start.
Council members expressed support for the concept plan, which may be changed as the project develops. Member Sally Greene said the plan suits the memorial site.
“They’re places for reflection, and for all kinds of people to come with all kinds of thoughts, and in particular, thoughts about the service of our veterans,” she said.
Council member Jim Ward asked for more information about the design, construction and maintenance costs. He suggested a generous endowment would help pay for upkeep on the memorial.
The plan has weak support from the Cemetery Advisory Board. Two members voted for it, two abstained and one was absent.
The four members at the meeting approved the idea of a memorial but they were not sure they wanted it in the cemetery, board member Steve Moore wrote the council in an email.
Resident Martin Rody, a design committee member and World War II veteran, urged the council to ask for a freestanding stone-and-metal monument.
“A memorial garden is very expensive to install and, more importantly, to maintain,” he said. “Secondly, a memorial garden is short-lived, because trees, shrubs and plants are short-lived. … Stone and metal will last forever.”
Kisiah said the committee tried to design a plan that would honor veterans but remain appropriate for a public cemetery.
“The idea is that it not be something that’s grandiose or a war memorial,” he said.