Veteran recruits help to care for aging memorial
A veteran is looking for some support from the community to preserve the 'sacred ground.'
By KATIE-NELL SCANLON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The year was 1957. Nearly 500 people gathered on the corner of East Rayen Avenue and Walnut Street to honor the lives of 12 men from Youngstown's Smoky Hollow district who died in battle.
A memorial constructed by the Golden Eagle Club was dedicated to the heroes of World War II and the Korean War, whose lives remain in the pages of history and etched in stone on a historical street corner.
A flagpole stands at the site with an American flag that flies proudly over the legends of soldiers below.
Forty-five years later, they watch over a different battle. The most fearsome enemy now is time. The Veterans Memorial at Smoky Hollow is tattooed with signs of age.
Russell Reuthe of Austintown, veteran of Desert Storm and Desert Shield, is trying to reverse the wrinkles.
After seeing a letter to the editor in The Vindicator some four years ago, Reuthe said he recognized the need for upkeep on the small piece of square ground. He recruited friends, family and co-workers, who take turns maintaining the site and its beauty.
The flagpole, however, is deteriorating more with age. The base of the pole is rusted, its paint is worn thin and the electricity that once lighted the memorial at night has been turned off. Reuthe said they've repainted the pole, but it is beyond repair.
He said removal of the old pole and purchase and installation of a new one will cost about $2,500. He's looking for some support from the community to preserve the "sacred ground."
"The memorial has to be 50 years old to be eligible for consideration as a national landmark," Reuthe explained. "So we don't have any government funds to improve or replace anything, aside from what we put in ourselves."
After serving in the armed forces for 15 years, Reuthe said he wants to show his appreciation by caring for the site.
"I feel like it's my responsibility," Reuthe said. He trims the grass, bushes and hedges with his own equipment.
"Initially, it was a big investment," Reuthe said. "The trees and bushes were so overgrown, you couldn't see anything."
The memorial required some attention after the loss of its first self-appointed gardener, Smoky Hollow resident Attilio DiLallo, who cared after it until his death Sept. 3, 1983, his 91st birthday.
A stone to honor DiLallo's dedication to the memorial was later added to the site. He had brought flowers and plants from his Walnut Street home.
DiLallo had lived near the 12 Smoky Hollow boys and their families. His daughter Rose and son-in-law Frank Worrellia are still residents of Smoky Hollow and consider the memorial an important part of the district.
"We still visit the site and take care of it when we can," Rose said. "It's nice because there is always something special there to remember those boys."
Although Reuthe didn't know the men personally, the memorial strikes an emotional chord with him, and he said he wants to see its presence preserved.
"You see these older men come out and try to help," Reuthe said of the residents and war veterans of Smoky Hollow. "But it's really something to just see them sit back and look with tears in their eyes."
Aside from the minimal maintenance, the group coordinates two cleanup projects a year in September and April, and they replace the flag on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Reuthe said that thanks to the grounds department at Youngstown State University and the Youngstown City Street Department, the volunteers have plenty of assistance and tools.
"It's more than just about the men," Reuthe said. "We're rejuvenating and revitalizing the Smoky Hollow area. This place belongs to Youngstown."
XThose interested in helping out with the memorial efforts can contact Reuthe at (330) 792-9210.