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Lower Makefield

What began as an inspired idea to create a park for the citizens of Lower Makefield Township featuring a monument honoring the community's defenders of freedom has over the course of nearly a year yielded a unique and compelling Monument anchoring a natural, elegant master park plan. This is not your typical Township or typical community... and this is not your typical monument. It is an effort to bring form to the complex ideals of freedom, spirit and sacrifice in a naturally inspired place of deserved and fitting honor.

With no corners, no front or back, no start or finish, only inside and out this monument is of no time and transcends time. It communicates with every edge of the park; it takes on meaning from near and far. It acknowledges the sad reality that freedom's defense knows no boundaries in place or time

By Petra Chesner Schlatter
pschlatter@buckslocalnews.com

Kathy Kraeck and Architect Brian Mann visit the site of the future Lower Makefield Veterans Monument. Photo by Petra Chesner Schlatter

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LOWER MAKEFIELD -- The Lower Makefield Veterans Monument, which is now under construction, is slated for completion in late September -- all in time for an official dedication at a ceremony following the 9th Annual Veterans Parade on Sunday, Nov. 9.

A life-size bronze eagle, bas relief sand bronze plaques should be installed in early October.

Planning for the monument began in November 2008. More than $250,000 has been raised to pay for it.

Construction started June 11 by Premier Builders, which is owned by Chris Escher of Yardley. About one-sixth of the project is completed.

The primary form of the wall has been placed. Next in line is the electrical infrastructure, the brick veneer finish, the concrete coping, the setting of plaques and civic statement and the placement of the finished brick and granite in the base. This includes bricks which were paid for by people. Words are etched in the bricks. .

Architect Brian Mann, a founding partner of The OMNIA Group, which is based in Hatboro, said the company did not charge for any of the design services, but did for the technical documentation.

Mann studied architecture and engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and has been in the architectural field for nearly 30 years.

Creating the monument has special meaning for him. “As a history buff, I am keenly aware of the sacrifices our veterans have made,” he said. “As brother of a Vietnam veteran, that sacrifice is very personal. We are both thrilled and humbled to have this opportunity to try and give the community a place to honor such sacrifice.”

Mann said his partner, Gene Grimaldi, and Bryan Delso, senior project manager, “were critical to the conception and execution of this design.”

He described the design of the veteran’s monument as different than others, which often consist of a headstone with flagpoles.

“The monument is a sweeping curve clad in shimmering black brick ,” Mann said, “which will rise from a low wall height of four feet to a high height at the other end of nine feet where it will be capped by a spectacular bronze eagle taking flight made by local artist and committee member, Robert Girandola.”

The idea was to create something “less funereal and more contemplative,” he said. “The flowing form is meant to give each viewer an opportunity to individualize their experience. I will say though that the form is designed to both capture the flight of the eagle and provide a sense of embrace.”

The core of the structure is concrete and block. The finish is a burnt black called Black Manganese which has “an almost reflective, shimmering quality which will add vibrancy to the appropriately serious dark color,” he said.

All the bricks on the monument are the same. The base features a variation of sizes and materials.

Mann said OMNIA put a lot of time and effort into this project n. “It took many forms before we ended up with this and the process has yielded a special design,” he said. “But I cannot stress enough that none of this would have happened without an incredible effort by the determined and tireless committee headed by the incomparable Kathy Kraeck.”

Kraeck said the monument represents a place where people can gather in the community to pay homage to local veterans for the sacrifices they have made to ensure Americans have the freedoms they enjoy today.

“People can come on their own for contemplative purposes, or for public events, and can educate their children about those sacrifices made,” she said. “There are over 450 names represented on our Wall of Honor, some of whom paid the ultimate price with their lives, others who bravely gave a couple of years of their lives.”

She said the monument “is designed to be uplifting and peaceful and to give hope to the human spirit for our shared future as the eagle looks down on and protects the names on the Wall.”

The creation of the Lower Makefield Veterans Monument was made possible completely by the community-- businesses, organizations and individuals. “It speaks volumes about the gratitude our area residents feel for our veterans who have sacrificed so much,” she said. “There will be names of over 400 Yardley and Lower Makefield veterans, all submitted to us, as well as about 30 who gave their lives in service, and another 25 who were part of the original Woodside World War II Honor Roll plaque.”

Kraeck said many people have expressed their congratulations and appreciation of the committee's efforts to bring the monument to fruition. “When we began in 2008, the recession hit, and it was a tremendous challenge to convince people of the viability of donating their money to a brand new cause, especially in the early stages,” she said.