Veterans hoping to restore World War II monument

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo

Shown is the World War II monument on the corner of Bridge and Broad streets in Bellaire that is in significant need of restoration and repair.


Courtesy photo

Bellaire's Blue Star Mothers and Wives of Veterans, who erected the monument downtown Bellaire in memory of the local soldiers who served in World War II, four of whom were lost in battle.


BELLAIRE – On April 1, 1945, which happened to be Easter Sunday, the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and more than 180,000 U.S. Army and Marine Corps troops descended on the South Pacific island of Okinawa for a final push towards Japan.

The Battle of Okinawa was the last major battle of World War II, and one of the bloodiest, claiming the lives of more than 12,000 American soldiers, including that of Bellaire's young Walter Grant Watrous, a private in the 7th Marine's First Battalion, who was killed in action on May 10, 1945. He was just 22 years old.

Watrous's name, and those of three other Bellaire soldiers killed in action during World War II, were forever memorialized – along with all who served during the war – on a monument dedicated shortly after the war ended by a group of local women known as the Blue Star Mothers and Wives of Veterans of Bellaire.

For more than 70 years, that monument has stood in a place of honor next to the American flag in front of the Bellaire Community Hall at the intersection of Bridge and Broad streets downtown Bellaire.

With the passing of time, along with the wear and tear of Mother Nature, it's become obvious that the monument has seen better days.

Longtime Bellaire resident and veteran Carl Griffith noticed the deterioration of the monument, which features a bronze plaque with the names of the four Bellaire servicemen who gave their lives during that conflict, several years ago. That observation came to the forefront last month.

"In September, I noticed bird droppings on the monument," the 87-year-old Griffith said. "So that weekend I took a scrub brush and a pail of water and cleaner and went down to the community hall."

The droppings came off easily, Griffith continued. "But the bronze name plate was badly tarnished and couldn't be cleaned."

While he was working on the monument, several people stopped by to offer their support, said Griffith, a former Bellaire Village Council trustee. "One of them was Melanie Stanton, the probate judge in Grand Traverse County. And several people offered me money, which I turned down, to help restore the monument."

Griffith also noticed the old mortar crumbling from between the stones, which resulted in several missing and loose stones. It was obvious that the monument needed more help than he was able to give.

"As near as I can determine, the Village of Bellaire owns the land the monument is on, but the stone itself belongs to the Blue Star ladies, all of whom have been gone for years, which would explain why no one has been taking care of it," he said.

With the assistance of Bellaire's Friends of Veterans group, Griffith planned to take the plight of the monument to the Bellaire Village Council during its monthly meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 6.

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