Women's legacy memorial rendering

Shown is a rendering of the future women’s legacy memorial on the Howard County Courthouse lawn. The memorial, shown here on the southwest corner, will instead be placed on the courthouse’s northeast corner.

The veterans groups behind constructing a women’s legacy memorial on the northeast corner of the courthouse lawn are asking the public to help fund the last stretch of the project’s financial needs.

The Howard County Veterans Memorial Corp. (HCVMC) and the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 28 are crowdfunding $50,000 needed to receive a dollar-to-dollar matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority that will go toward finishing a monument commemorating women’s contributions to the military and workforce and all women of color.

The two groups recently launched their crowdfunding effort on Patroncity and have until June 8 to raise the $50,000 needed to be awarded the matching grant. If funded, the resulting $100,000 will be used to purchase three bronze statues for the Women’s Legacy Memorial, each one representing a different way women contribute to the country, their families and community.

The one standing tallest will be Rosie the Riveter, the WWII icon — flexing her right bicep, her left hand pulling her sleeve toward her shoulder — who displays the strength and contributions of women in the workforce and in motherhood.

The second statue, complete with the word “honor,” is dedicated to women of color and depicts Shawna Rochelle Kimbrell, the first female African-American fighter pilot in Air Force history. Kimbrell was born in 1976 in Lafayette.

The third statue, on a platform displaying the word “country,” shows a kneeling woman, her hand on her heart and her head bowed. The woman, dressed in contemporary military garb, holds a musket. Her left leg, bent in front of her, displays a prosthetic leg. The statue represents all active and veteran women.

Sculptor Benjamin Victor, who also completed the Blue/Gold Star Family Memorial in Darrough Chapel Park, was commissioned again for the statutes in the Women’s Legacy Memorial.

The monument will also feature a stone monolith with the image of the state of Indiana and flanked by steel iron rods made by Kokomo High School students. Most of the grunt work for the monument, including the landscaping, bricklaying, electrical and design work, has all been donated by local residents or businesses. Including the in-kind contributions, the groups estimate $500,000 of materials and labor will have gone into bringing the monument to life.

The veteran groups received approval to place the statues on the courthouse lawn by the commissioners in 2017. At the time, Jerry Paul, president of the HCVMC, said the monument will be one of its kind in the country due to the fact that women and contributions have often been overlooked. In a brief interview with the Tribune this week, Paul reiterated that point.

“When it comes to monuments for women, just look at Indiana. It’s pathetic,” he said. “It’s sad because women are 53% of the population and there’s nothing for women. And if you’re a woman of color, it’s even worse.”

Paul said construction on everything but the statues is expected to begin later this month and be completed a few weeks after. If the crowdfunding campaign is successful — Paul plans on asking both the city and county governments for $10,000 each — the plan is for the three statutes to be installed this summer in time for a dedication ceremony on July 4th weekend during the Haynes Apperson Festival.

The fundraising effort has been almost nonstop for a handful of years now. Paul said the monument should have been constructed in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic halted fundraising efforts. That said, Paul is confident the group can get the last stretch of fundraising complete. The two groups are currently conducting a fundraiser at Half Moon Restaurant and Brewery, one that is usually fairly successful for the groups.

“We’re rounding third and heading home, but I just don’t want to break my ankle getting there,” Paul said.

Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at tyler.juranovich@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich

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