WOODLAWN CEMETERY — The City Council gave the green light last week to launch a fundraising campaign for a new memorial to honor Santa Monica’s war dead.
The memorial, suggested as a commemorative wall, will be located on the southern side of the mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery, just adjacent to the structure’s main entrance.
A second location on the western side offered a larger space for the memorial, but officials in the Public Works Department recommended the first option for its superior visibility, said Susan Cline, assistant director of Public Works.
With the dimensions defined, city employees can begin designing the wall, which will hold 97 names of Santa Monicans who have died in wars and leave space for additional names turned up through research or community involvement.
It will also allow officials to come up with cost estimates, which will then be used to raise money from the public to pay for the wall. The expected costs at this early juncture fall between $7,500 and $15,000.
“Final design and construction is dependent on fundraising activity,” Cline said, noting that some money has already been offered by an anonymous donor.
“We’ve seen interest in it already,” Cline said.
Jack Walter, community member and developer, has already pledged $1,000 to the effort, and requested that City Hall match the gift and consider raising the fundraising bar.
“I think it’s a little short,” Walter said. “We want to do something fitting and respectful.”
He also suggested moving the memorial inside the mausoleum to lower maintenance costs down the road.
Council members supported the project unanimously. Councilmember Bob Holbrook requested a community engagement process that would bring people together over the effort both to pay for it and to find names missing from the list.
The original 97-name list was the work of Ginamarie Vollucci, an intern with the Human Resources Department who researched the topic during the summer of 2012 after Holbrook approached City Manager Rod Gould with the memorial idea.
Vollucci began by listing each war since 1887 and eliminated those for which no records were available. That left her with five: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War.
She then went to the National Archives and Records Administration, a service of the federal government that provides a searchable database with names of casualties based on hometown.
Her efforts turned up only 37 names, but Vollucci was not done. She filled in the gaps using Ancestry.com, records held by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Department of Defense casualty analysis system and private websites created by former or retired military personnel or veteran’s associations.
She came up with a grand total of 97, although all acknowledge that the list is not exhaustive. It includes no casualties from Afghanistan or Iraq, and a fire that took out 80 percent of Army and Air Force records in 1973 left yawning gaps in information available for research.
Holbrook proposed publicizing the names to allow residents and others to add to the list, if need be.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown supported the effort, and the idea that it would gain significance if the public pitched in to fund the project. He didn’t like the idea of a war memorial, however.
“One concern that I had was that it was described in the media as a war memorial,” McKeown said. “I think this is a peace memorial honoring those who have died in war.”
The fundraising kickoff is planned for the 75th Memorial Day Remembrance at Woodlawn Cemetery, Mortuary and Mausoleum scheduled for May 27, very near to the suggested location.
If completed, the memorial will join the Greek Amphitheater at Santa Monica High School, a monument in Palisades Park and a Civil War memorial at Woodlawn as a visible symbol of Santa Monica’s commitment to freedom and its fallen.