by Geoff Fox
Last September, the town of Hancock held a ceremony at the Hancock Veterans Memorial to dedicate the new veterans banners and to rename the road in Widmeyer Park from Park Road to Hancock Veterans Parkway.
Since that dedication, banners honoring Hancock veterans have lined the road. Two of those banners by the town’s monument are for Dan Fleming and Bob McCusker, two men responsible for the monument.
While they don’t share a pole, the McCusker banner is on a pole with Donald R. Corbett on the south side of the monument. McCusker’s banner is closest to the monument. The Fleming banner shares a pole with Berman “Lee” Hixon on the north side of the monument. Fleming’s banner is closest to the monument.
During the citizen comments portion of the May 8 town meeting, the location of the Fleming and McCusker banners were called into question.
Sinclair Hamilton came to the meeting in support of removing the banners from within the monument itself. Lee Fleming, Dan Fleming’s son, came in support of leaving the banners where they are.
There had been some controversy on social media about the banner locations, Hamilton told town officials.
The controversy started last month when a post on social media stated the banners by the monument hadn’t been put up. They were put up the following day.
Hamilton said he wasn’t able to keep up on the controversy but hoped people would be able to understand his point of view as to why he wanted the banners moved from the monument.
Hamilton sculpted the mother and daughter statue at the monument after being approached by McCusker and Dan Fleming to create the piece.
“I really enjoyed working with Bob and Dan,” Hamilton said. “They were just wonderful people.”
Hamilton said both men had a unique vision of the monument in the park near the War Memorial Library to create some “ambiance.”
Hamilton said through bingo games at the VFW, $180,000 were raised, but the costs were higher. Costs were offset by donations of masonry work by Buddy Dyer and lighting by Shives Electric.
“It was kind of a great thing to see, that people come together to make this memorial happen,” Hamilton said.
During the discussions about the design of the monument itself, Hamilton asked if the two men would want a bronze relief of them somewhere on the monument.
McCusker told Hamilton the project wasn’t about them, it was about the veterans.
“That’s why I thought that the banners should be on the street side beside the memorial in line with the other veterans rather than within the memorial where Bob and Dan didn’t want their image placed,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said some thought it disrespectful to move the two mens’ banners to another location.
“I’d like to think that I’m, in my point of view, respecting their wishes,” Hamilton said. “This is what they told me. This is what they wanted.”
Councilman Tim Boyer asked Hamilton if he had talked to the families of both men. Hamilton said he hadn’t, and no one had approached him either.
“You can do whatever you want and people can believe whatever they want, but I think the people who created this memorial, their wishes should be honored out of respect for them and all they have done,” Hamilton said.
Lee Fleming, who had signed up to speak before Hamilton but allowed him to speak first, addressed town officials.
“Putting a bronze statue on the monument is quite different than hanging a banner, I think,” Fleming said.
Fleming described his father and McCusker as both being humble and not wanting the recognition for the project.
He did agree the monument is about honoring the veterans and not his father or McCusker.
“Bob was very clear about that,” Fleming said. “I spoke with him many times and he said, ‘It’s not about me. It’s about those 1500 some names on that monument, that’s what it’s all about’.”
The poles on which the banners for Dan Fleming and McCusker sit were not initially for the banners. Instead they were installed 19 years ago when the monument was created to provide illumination of the monument steps, Lee Fleming said.
When the banners went up last year, those light poles were a convenient place to hang them and a fitting place as well, he added.
Fleming asked town officials who made the call to not put the banners at the monument last month. He was met with silence from all four councilmen and mayor.
In 2010, the Hancock Veterans Memorial Foundation approached town officials to take on the responsibility of maintaining, operating, and repairing the monument.
“We’ve done that,” Fleming said. “We’ve pulled weeds and raked leaves and put weed killer down and taken care of that place.”
Fleming said at that time, the mayor and council agreed to let the Hancock Veterans Memorial Foundation be the sole entity to maintain and operate the monument.
After a long wait, Fleming said the names of the organization members are going to be placed at the monument and the costs falls to the group. Fleming said it’s their responsibility to do so.
“Why weren’t we consulted when the banners were put up and no banners were placed on the monument?” Fleming asked town officials. “I’m not aware of any changes that somebody else is in charge of where the banners go and where they don’t, I mean at the monument anyway.”
Fleming asked those in attendance if they agreed with the placing of the banners in the monument to stand, nearly everyone in attendance stood.
Mayor Ralph Salvagno wasn’t aware of the agreement between the town and Fleming’s group.
The mayor said it would be recorded in meeting minutes so the town could be, in his words, “respectful of the wishes of that committee and give you the autonomy that you need to portray that monument at what ever fashion you deem to be appropriate.”
Boyer said there’s an easy solution to both parties issues and that would be to have the banner situation funnel through one person.
He suggested Councilman Leo Murray as that person since he was the driving force behind the banner project. Murray agreed to be that person.
“Different ideas are fine, but they need to be channeled through one person or one group,” Boyer said.
Picture: memorial1 or memorial2
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A question arose last month over the placement of veterans banners in the Hancock Veterans Memorial in Widmeyer Park. Town officials and monument caretakers hashed out the issue last week.