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Veteran close to reviving World War I monument | Sculpture to adorn 'Lest We Forget' in Downtown Park

Veteran Bob Shay will hold a fundraiser Aug. 21 in Downtown Park to support constructing a sculpture to place atop the World War I memorial there. - Brandon Macz
Veteran Bob Shay will hold a fundraiser Aug. 21 in Downtown Park to support constructing a sculpture to place atop the World War I memorial there.
— image credit: Brandon Macz

Bob Shay is getting closer to fulfilling a debt he feels to honor the soldiers whose names are marked on Bellevue Downtown Park's World War I memorial, and the sacrifice of many more who have served their country in times of conflict.

The "Lest We Forget" monument, dedicated by the Bellevue Minute Women and Bellevue School District on Armistice Day 1926 to the lives of three local men who died fighting in World War I, first caught Shay's eye when the park opened in 1987.

"To me, at the time, it looked like a monument that had never been finished," he said. "(People) aren't aware of it and it's not shown much respect for it."

A Vietnam-era Veteran and chaplain for the local VFW Post 2995, Shay took up the charge to complete the monument and make its presence in the park a beloved feature, rather than a forgotten relic.

"This was passed down to us," Shay said. "This is our responsibility, first and foremost."

The first leg of Shay's fundraising efforts has been completed, with monetary and in-kind donations to be used to create a circular plaza around the monument, with three holes for flags that represent the World War I soldiers named on its plaque: Victor Freed, Victor E. Hanson and Oscar Johnson.

"The final push here is to raise the money for the sculpture," Shay said.

When the monument was first constructed, Shay said a large mast and flag were prominently placed in the middle. The mast eventually came down, Shay said, likely due to a historically bad windstorm. The hole left behind was filled in with a concrete square.

Shay hopes to raise about $8,000 during a fundraiser 6 p.m. Aug. 21 at the monument, to place a bronze sculpture of a folded ceremonial casket flag on its squared top. The three bronze roses lying over the flag will also honor the three soldiers, he said.

"That represents the three men and the ceremonial burial they would not have had during war times," Shay said of the flag.

Joining Shay during the Aug. 21 fundraiser will be city leaders and other officers with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2995.

Donors of more than $100 have an opportunity to receive one of 100 donated copies of retired Army Lt. Colonel Frank Thomas' "This We'll Defend," a painting that uses a copy of the U.S. Constitution for a canvass.

Shay said once the World War I monument is restored and improved, there are more projects here to keep the veteran and VFW busy.

"It is the responsibility of everyone who returns not to forget those who did not," he said.

To find out more about the WWI memorial and how to make a donation, Shay can be contacted at robertallanshay@gmail.com.

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