Frank Del Gallo was searching for an artist to chisel the outline of a soldier into the veterans’ monument at Town Hall when he had a chance meeting with a stone engraver from Florida.
The Rotterdam supervisor was introduced to Kenny Maguire, who was in the area over the winter, and asked him if he would be interested in helping out with the memorial, under construction since July adjacent to Town Hall. Maguire, a veteran of the Marines wounded during the invasion of Panama, didn’t think twice about providing his expertise. His challenge was a monument in an “H” shape, with a bluestone slab between two of limestone.
The two massive slabs of limestone were encased in a plastic shell to shield Maguire from the cold and elements. He then spent more than 350 hours creating the two etchings on either side of the limestone uprights.
“He was working until he got blisters on his hands,” Del Gallo said.
But that typified the spirit of the monument to commemorate the service of Rotterdam’s veterans. Del Gallo said everyone from the community seemed to chip in, whether it was lending a hand to build the structure or donating money for supplies.
Today, Del Gallo and other dignitaries will gather to celebrate the town’s first monument dedicated specifically to Rotterdam veterans. The ceremony will feature U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko as a keynote speaker.
The monument was an idea spurred by Anthony Troiano, the former president of Rotterdam’s Disabled American Veterans chapter, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. For years, he said he wondered why a town with such a rich military tradition didn’t have a memorial for local veterans.
The town already has a small obelisk dedicated to war veterans. However, Troiano envisioned a larger memorial that could both serve as a gathering area for veterans’ remembrances and where the plaques bearing the names of Rotterdam’s veterans can be displayed.
“It was a vision I had for years and years,” he said.
Troiano approached Del Gallo about the idea last year, and the supervisor decided to make it happen. After sketching down Troiano’s idea, Del Gallo found a local quarry to donate the limestone and a slab of blue stone to serve as a centerpiece.
Del Gallo said nearly two dozen volunteers spent countless hours working on the monument and park, which is now adorned with flowers. In total, roughly $50,000 was donated to the cause, including Del Gallo’s salary as supervisor.
Veterans and their families can now purchase bronze stars to honor their service. Del Gallo said the stars will be placed in the pavilion surrounding the monument.
“It’ll look even better as it goes along,” he said.