What does the word memorial mean to you? A quick Google search brings up the following definition: “something, especially a structure, established to remind people of a person or event.”
If you drive along the Valley Parkway in the northern part of Rocky River Reservation you will see a large field identified by the following sign:
Unlike some of the other memorials in Cleveland Metroparks it is not obvious just who or what is being memorialized. When you encounter a sign for the Stinchcomb or Groth Memorials, or the A.B. Williams or Harriett Keeler Woods the names tell you right up front who the honoree is. Of course this is only a name. Unless you are familiar with the person on the sign you may not know why they deserve such an honor. You will need to read the interpretive signs at the memorial, or, if you are a complete history geek like me, you might even research the person on line or at the library (yes, libraries are still great places to gather new knowledge!!!)
Many of us create more personal memorials in our homes. Family photos on the walls of your home or on your Facebook page keep the memory of loved ones alive. I have an old cookbook of my mother’s that serves as a memorial to her love of cooking and keeps me connected to her. To a stranger it is just a ratty old cookbook, to me it is priceless.
That’s the thing about memorials, though. Even prominent public monuments have different meanings. To the people who help to plan, finance and create public memorials the person or event being honored is someone or something that they will never forget anyway. The memorial is designed to transfer that memory across time and generations. Sometimes it works well, other times the monument becomes simply a gathering spot or landmark, or worse, an all but invisible part of the scenery.
This brings me back to the subject of this post which is, in case you have forgotten, Memorial Field in Rocky River Reservation. It was, and is, meant to be a place to honor our nation’s veterans. When the field was dedicated in 1932 the newest vets were World War I soldiers. The paper simply called them World War veterans, since the brewing storm in Europe and Asia had not yet erupted into World War II. But among the honorees at the dedication ceremony were also Spanish-American War vets and even a few Civil War survivors. In 2003 the field was rededicated to all men and women who have served in the American Armed Forces. A rather poignant addition is a newer monument honoring canine members of the armed forces.
I’ve done the research for you in this case, but I challenge you to take a moment when you pass or visit the memorials in Cleveland Metroparks, or wherever your travels take you. Find out who or what is being honored and why someone chose to create a lasting monument to them. You may agree that they are worthy of remembrance, or you may question the decision. That is fine, but at least search out their stories. Learn how these people may have impacted the world that you live in today, for good or for ill. Every life tells part of the larger story of humanity. Whether that life results in a memorial field, a monument, or a beloved cookbook, it is good to remember it.