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WATCH NOW: Higgins Memorial gets spruced up
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WATCH NOW: Higgins Memorial gets spruced up

The Andrew Jackson Higgins National Memorial will be cleaned up with 30 new bricks installed in time for Memorial Day next week.

“We’ll have the flags up, the landscaping is done and hopefully we’ll have the mowing all done,” said Dennis Hirschbrunner, member of the memorial’s foundation board.

Although there has been a slight issue with the American flags – they had received indoor flags instead of outside – Hirschbrunner said the proper ones were supposed to arrive Friday afternoon so they can be installed in time for the Monday holiday.

Thirty new bricks, which people can purchase to have their veteran loved one’s name etched into the brick then fixed onto the memorial wall, were also placed at the site.

The bricks are a source of revenue to assist with the maintenance costs of the Higgins National Memorial.

Hirschbrunner noted that this is the most difficult part of maintaining a memorial; not collecting funds to establish the shrine but securing monies necessary for upkeep.

“We continue to need revenue to take care of the memorial,” he said.

Whitey Walgren, treasurer of the foundation board, expressed a similar view.

“We’ve got bricks they can buy at $50 apiece,” Walgren said.

Bricks can be purchased, or general donations made, via Paypal, the link of which can be found at andrewjacksonhigginsmemorialfoundation.org/donate.

Columbus’ traditional Memorial Day services are changing this year due to ongoing concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the usual ceremony at Frankfort Square will not be held this year, the Higgins Memorial will be open and decorated for those who wish to stop by and pay their respects to those who lost their lives while serving their country.

The American Legion Hartman Post 84 recently announced that a small recognition event will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Monday at the nearby Bell Tower in Pawnee Park. It will be livestreamed on the McKown Funeral Home’s Facebook page for people to watch due to Directed Health Measures limiting crowd sizes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Higgins Memorial has been a project years in the making. The memorial was the brainchild of former teacher Jerry Meyer; he and his students had become transfixed with the story of Andrew Jackson Higgins, a Columbus native who rose to international prominence during World War II for the design and production of Higgins boats.

Included is a full-size replica of a Higgins boat and sculptures which depict a soldier from each of the three wars in which a Higgins boat was utilized: World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War.

Veterans are honored with the Memorial Wall; this was expanded in 2002 with two additional octagonal structures housing 960 bricks.

A bronze statue as well as displays provide further nods of recognition to Higgins.

Following the 9/11 attacks, the memorial was expanded to honor those who lost their lives that day, as well as those who continue fighting against terrorism. A 400-pound bronze eagle, constructed from steel taken from the fallen World Trade Center towers, can be seen on a 30-foot beam. The eagle appears to be spreading his 7-foot wings in preparation to circle the memorial.

Recent renovations totaling $31,000 – paid for by grants from Platte County - included refurbishing the statues and cleaning and repainting the Higgins boat.

“Last year when we did the renovation, we had people from Tennessee, South Dakota stopping to talk to me about the memorial,” Hirschbrunner noted.

Walgren agreed that the Higgins Memorial is looking nicer.

“I think it looks fantastic,” Walgren said.

Looking toward the future, Hirschbrunner said he hopes to incorporate Higgins Memorial into regular Memorial Day services, such as a morning prayer the day before the traditional ceremony takes place. He eyes the next project being the replacement of information plaques.

“This has gotten to be an amazing place,” Hirschbrunner said. “We continue to try to make it even nicer and continuing to enhance it.”

Hannah Schrodt is the news editor of The Columubus Telegram. Reach her via email at hannah.schrodt@lee.net.

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