Veterans’ memorial opens in Legislative Hall

Gold Star Families member Judith Campbell lights the candle at Friday’s dedication in Legislative Hall. The new memorial includes a chair, a book containing the names of Delaware’s war dead on an antique music stand, and a candle on a small table.  (Submitted photo/Patrick Hughes)

Gold Star Families member Judith Campbell lights the candle at Friday’s dedication in Legislative Hall. The new memorial includes a chair, a book containing the names of Delaware’s war dead on an antique music stand, and a candle on a small table. (Submitted photo/Patrick Hughes)

DOVER — Thanks to the efforts of dozens of people, a new memorial honoring veterans was unveiled Friday.

Located on the second floor of Legislative Hall in front of the governor’s office, the memorial consists of multiple parts, chiefly a chair and a book of names. The book rests on an antique music stand, and behind it sits a candle on a small table. The chair, with a black cloth draped over it, sits next to the music stand.

All the furniture is situated on a small platform, and two informational panels like those found in museums are positioned next to the memorial’s pieces.

The commemorative furniture is a combination of two ideas and was set up to honor prisoners of war and soldiers killed in battle.

“Back in February we got an email from a guy named Patrick Hughes, who’s from Pennsylvania, who’s hooked up with a motorcycle organization of Vietnam War veterans called Rolling Thunder Incorporated, and they were helping to promote this national effort to get what they call chairs of honor placed in public places around the country to honor POWs, those missing in action,” said Dick Carter, director of special projects for the Senate majority caucus.

The group was hoping to have chairs placed in every state capitol, and seats have been placed in places such as the Pennsylvania state capitol and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field.

The new memorial in Legislative Hall is designed to honor the many veterans who were captured or killed in war. (Submitted photo/Patrick Hughes)

The new memorial in Legislative Hall is designed to honor the many veterans who were captured or killed in war. (Submitted photo/Patrick Hughes)

The idea was pitched to the General Assembly veteran committees, and Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton, suggested a memorial also honor Delaware citizens who gave their lives in war, Mr. Carter said.

Lawmakers and state officials immediately seized onto the idea and began developing a fitting commemoration.

For starters, the rich brown furniture is not just standard pieces that could be purchased at any department store. The chair is more than 80 years old and actually dates back to Legislative Hall’s opening in 1933.

“It’s been in this building since day one,” Mr. Carter said.

Bernard Brady, the secretary of the Senate and the unofficial historian of the General Assembly, believes the chair used to belong to the chief sergeant-at-arms, Mr. Carter said. Another individual told him the seat, a rather large one, had been used by former Gov. Elbert Carvel — who, at 6 feet 6 inches, was the tallest man to ever hold the office.

“I don’t know which is correct,” Mr. Carter said. “Maybe both.”

At any rate, it’s clearly a historic piece.

Inmates who work in the Delaware Correctional Industries shop refurbished the chair and added the famous POW MIA symbol to it. They also re-finished an antique music stand donated by Mr. Carter and developed a stand for the candlestick.

The display replaces an American flag couch that was created in honor of Sept. 11 and has since been moved across the street to the Tatnall Building.

As old and storied as the chair is, it’s not the most historic piece in the memorial. The roll of honor, a book listing the names of hundreds of Delawareans who died in war, along with details about some of them, rests on its stand.

The book actually stretches back to before the United States was formed, providing the names of colonists who lived in what is now the state of Delaware. Compiled from the Delaware Public Archives, several books and online resources, the roll seeks to ensure those who lost their lives protecting their country are not forgotten.

“Obviously when you’re putting together something like this you know at the outset that this list is not going to be complete, because there are some names we never know and there are other names that keep coming in,” Mr. Carter said.

A number of individuals were in attendance for the formal presentation Friday, including several lawmakers, retired military personnel and family members of deceased veterans.

People with information on Delawareans who died in warfare can provide information to delawareheritageoffice@state.de.us. Copies of the honor roll can be obtained by contacting the Division of Research, available at 744-4114.

On Nov. 7, a new monument will be dedicated outside Legislative Hall in honor of the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, which saw 21 Delawareans killed. The design will be located at the northeast corner of the building, and the unveiling will follow a parade in Dover.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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