Soldiers, sailors plaque is rededicated
The plaque presented to Lehigh County in 1962 was rededicated Oct. 19 at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Lehigh County Plaza, Seventh and Hamilton streets, Allentown.
The plaque originally placed on the Allentown National Bank building, was thought lost in 2012 due to the construction of Two City Center.
After it was located in Allentown City Hall basement, it was reinstalled at the county Government Center.
The Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council, in 2017, began a campaign to restore the plaque and mount it on the base of the monument with a new pedestal installation.
The project was completed recently as part of an effort to raise awareness of veterans’ contribution to the community.
U.S. Air Force retired Maj. Gen. Jerry Still, president of the Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council and speaker at the plaque rededication, began by saying Oct. 19 was an important day as it is the day the monument was originally dedicated in 1899.
“A number of attempts to erect a monument after the war including a request for contributions from every male citizen in Lehigh County failed,” Still said. “It wasn’t until 1895, when a state law was enacted to allow citizens to petition the courts to order county commissioners to erect a monument that would begin in earnest.”
After the first petition failed, a second one passed in November 1897.
“Eleven months later, a city ordinance allowed for the erection of a monument in the center of Seventh Street,” Still said. “And on Oct. 17, 1898 the monument was approved by commissioners and a plan was selected from 10 designs submitted, bids received and the contract was awarded to the Pennsylvania Monument Association in Gettysburg for $39,000 on Nov. 26, 1898.” The extra cross brought the cost to $43,000.
After giving a brief history on the monument, Still thanked the people who were instrumental in making the rededication possible.
The first person he recognized was Thomas S. Muller, former Lehigh County executive.
“Tom Muller, who was our county executive, did an awful a lot. He and his team helped to bring this to fruition,” Still said. “We have been working on trying to get something started since September 2010 and it was three years ago we finally decided how we were going to do this.
“The reason for this rededication is a plaque.”
He also recognized Allentown Mayor Ray O’Connell and his staff; Elaine Cook; and Long and Cantelmi Funeral Homes, Bethlehem, for their help.
Still also noted several people who were involved with the rededication and whose names will appear on the back of the plaque.
He said the first is Muller, representing Lehigh County; Greg Heller, commander of the Honorary First Defenders, Allentown Chapter, and U.S. Army Ret. Maj. Richard Hudzinski, of the Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council.
Still also recognized private sponsors Christine Castiello, U.S. Navy Chaplain Candidate Program Officer Thomas Henehan, USMC Master Sgt. Roslyn G. and Master Gunnery Sgt. Carl J. Schroeder Jr., Erica Still, his wife, and Joseph R. Zeller and Ann A. Wertman for there involvement with the rededication.
Still then talked about the monument.
“The shaft is 92 feet, the total monument is 110 feet,” Still said.
“Remember this monument was dedicated to those who fought in the Civil War originally,” he said. “It represents the infantry, the artillery, the cavalry, the Navy and Marines.”
Still said in closing the monument has become a centerpiece of the City of Allentown and Lehigh County, and the plaque will be placed on it by the end of the year.
To learn more about the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, visit the Liberty Bell Museum, Allentown.