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Nonprofit seeks funding for Lincoln cemetery statue

This is smaller model 6-foot-4 Lincoln statue thcemetery supporters want place Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery Elwood.  |  Susan

This is a smaller model of the 6-foot-4 Lincoln statue that cemetery supporters want to place at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood. | Susan DeMar Lafferty/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 9, 2014 6:09AM



Abraham Lincoln was not only the president who founded the national cemetery system through an Act of Congress in 1862, but also has a national cemetery named after him in his home state, in Elwood.

It seems fitting that he also should be the first president to be honored with a statue in a national cemetery, which is what the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery Support Committee set out to do.

A 6-foot-4, life-size figure of Lincoln is waiting to be cast into bronze and placed at ground level at the new south entrance to the Memorial Walk behind the assembly area near the main flagpole at the cemetery.

Grassroots efforts to finance the project have fallen short of the goal of $110,000.

To date, $44,000 has been raised, according to Peotone Mayor Rich Duran, coordinator of the committee’s Lincoln Statue Project.

Duran recently appealed to the Will County Board’s finance committee, seeking $50,000 to help complete the project, but the committee made no promises.

“How can you be against it? It’s Lincoln,” said board member Jackie Traynere, D-Bolingbrook, who also questioned whether county funds were available.

The Lincoln statue would be placed on a concrete patio, with a limestone bench that would bear the emblems of all five military branches. Carved across the bottom of the bench is a phrase from his second inaugural address: “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.”

Bronze plaques at opposite ends of the bench will explain Lincoln’s role in the national cemetery system, and feature the last paragraph of that inaugural address, delivered just a month before his assassination.

“It will be an educational piece for all who come to the cemetery,” Duran said.

Funds raised over the past six years primarily have come from veterans organizations, townships and private sources, he said, but many veterans groups also are struggling financially.

Stephanie Silkey, of Wilmington, raised $6,000 during her tenure as president of the Illinois State Society of Children of the American Revolution, by making and selling badges to veterans, Duran said.

He would like to complete the project this year and suggested that the county board could use funds from the Will County landfill which, like Lincoln Cemetery, is located on the former Joliet Arsenal property.

“It’s a great idea,” said finance committee chairman Steve Wilhelmi, D-Joliet, adding that money cannot be taken from this year’s budget but that it could be considered next year.

Committee member Chuck Maher, R-Naperville, suggested that since this is the second-largest national cemetery, that the support committee reach out beyond Will County and Illinois and seek funds on a national level.

Since its inception in 1999, the nonprofit cemetery support committee has raised more than $192,000 to enhance the cemetery and its services. It has provided funds for the bell tower and carillon, honor guard uniforms, landscaping, benches and a bronze bust of Lincoln.

For more information or to make a donation, visit alncemeterysupport.org.



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