Effort underway to locate, preserve Illinois WWI memorials

MATTOON — Efforts are underway to locate and restore outdoor World War I memorials and monuments across Illinois.

The nonprofit organization Landmarks Illinois is offering matching grants to residents, organizations and government agencies interested in preserving WWI monuments, the Mattoon Journal-Gazette reported. The group also is working to find and record the location of each monument, many of which were put in place in the 1920s and 1930s and are in need of repair.

Landmarks Illinois President and CEO Bonnie McDonald said it’s important to ensure landmarks honoring veterans of what’s often called “The Forgotten War” do not go unnoticed or neglected.

“(The grant) program provides critical funding for aging historical markers that pay homage to local heroes who served in the Great War,” McDonald said.

Mattoon resident Steve Thompson, an Army veteran, has been assisting in recording the location and conditions of the memorials and monuments statewide. He said the preservation list has grown to include 225 monuments in 113 Illinois communities since he first started surveying 10 months ago, and that many are showing wear and tear.

“It all comes back to the veterans. I am in it because I want the veterans to be recognized and the monuments to veterans to be in the best shape possible for future generations to reflect on,” Thompson said.

The program launched in April amid the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into the war. It consists of four rounds of grant funding that will continue through next year. The grants, awarded on a matching basis, range from $500 to $5,000 and are determined by the need of eligible application.

McDonald said grant applications for the current round will be due on Nov. 15. She said the deadlines for the final two rounds will be in the summer.

The grants are being funded with the support of the Pritzker Military Foundation and may be used to pay for monument cleaning, replacement of missing elements and monument or memorial relocation.

According to McDonald, the group’s survey has shown World War I monuments were put in place across Illinois and range in size from small plaques to sculptures and large structures, including memorial bridges.

–Associated Press

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