Sunday, September 1, 2013

This Month in Rochester History

Honor Roll moving in 1963 (Rochester Hills Public Library)
Fifty years ago this month, Rochester leaders were contemplating what should be done with the community's World War II honor roll, which had fallen into disrepair and was standing in the way of a proposed urban renewal project.

In 1963, the honor roll was located on the east side of Main Street at Second; Second street had not been opened east of Main at that time. The village was preparing for an urban renewal project on the east side of Main, encompassing the area occupied by the former Chapman Mill Pond (which had been washed out in 1946) and adjacent property.  Part of this plan was to open Second Street east of Main.

The village fathers and the Blue Star Mothers, who had originally sponsored the creation of the memorial, contemplating moving the memorial to the municipal building grounds, as this article from the September 26, 1963 issue of the Rochester Clarion reported:
Township treasurer Helen V. Allen, representing the Blue Star Mothers, addressed a letter to the Council asking them to consider a spot for the memorial on the Civil Center grounds.
The memorial is now located on Main St. across the road from the eastern end of Second. Because the names are etched on glass, some of the panels are broken and the memorial in general is in poor condition. It is believed that stones thrown up by passing cars have broken the glass panels.
Mrs. Allen said this week that the Blue Star Mothers have brought a glass company person to Rochester to look at the memorial and it is estimated it will cost $600 to repair the memorial. It will cost an unestimated amount to move the memorial. She said that the Blue Star Mothers will ask other organizations and individuals to help them finance the project.
Honor Roll at re-dedication in 2002 (Rod and Susan Wilson)
The planned move to the municipal building grounds did not happen in 1963. Instead, the honor roll was removed from its site at Second Street and dismantled. The broken panels were stored away in a garage and not seen again for several decades, until the Rochester Avon Historical Society adopted the honor roll as a historic preservation project and restored it.  At a cost many thousands of dollars greater than the estimate of 1963, the memorial was returned to its former glory and given a place of honor on the grounds of the Rochester Municipal Building in 2002. It was re-dedicated on Memorial Day of that year with many local World War II veterans in attendance.

If you haven't visited Rochester's World War II Honor Roll, be sure to take time to stop by the Municipal Building to view this memorial to the more than 1,100 men and women from the community who served in uniform during World War II.  Among the names listed are 26 preceded by gold stars, denoting the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom.

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