Gold Star mother, community restore WWI-era monument found in Dan Ryan woods

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Gold Star mother whose son was killed in Afghanistan is ensuring mothers who lived the same experience 100 years ago will always be remembered in Chicago.

Modie Lavin and other community members are spearheading an effort to save a memorial erected by Gold Star mothers during World War I.

"My sisters from 100 years ago were doing the same thing I'm trying to do today: honor and respect our children who gave their lives for our freedom," said Lavin, whose son, Marine Corporal Conner T. Lowry, 24, was killed in Afghanistan six years ago.

The century-old, dilapidated memorial is in storage right now. It was located in the Dan Ryan Woods on Chicago's Far South South Side until last year, when the weather-worn monument was officially decommissioned and placed in storage until money is raised for restoration. While Lavin provides the heart for the project, she points to Tim Noonan as the muscle, the man working to set up a nonprofit organization and raise money for the memorial.

"Up to now, I don't think we've been that great of custodians to this monument and I think it's time for us to make up for it," said Noonan, who is spearheading the restoration effort. "As a parent, it would break my heart to see that this monument was forsaken and my child had sacrificed for the country and this is what happened."

The memorial needs repairs and is missing its main plaque. A smaller plaque has the words: "Chicago Council of Gold Star Mothers." The monument was located at the southeast corner of 87th Street and Western. Now, Noonan and others want to repair it, replace the missing plaque, and restore it to its original form. Since the main plaque is missing, however, they need the public's help too.

"The plaque is no longer there, and one of the hurdles is determining what was written on the original plaque," Noonan said.

Noonan is working with Dan O'Brien, trying to unravel the monument's history too. "There's got to be people out there that have family snapshots where they might have been standing near the monument or have the monument in the background or foreground that could help us with our research efforts," added O'Brien.

Technically, the memorial was located on Forest Preserves property. Lambrini Lukidis, a forest preserves spokeswoman, said since it wasn't in a prominent location, it was not properly maintained over the years.

"It is certainly a valued historical feature to the community," Lukidis said. "We are definitely on board to move it."

The new location is near the Dan Ryan Woods Visitors Center, which is located on the northeast corner of 87th and Western.

The Forest Preserves, Lukidis said, does not have any records or history about the monument either. Moving forward, however, she said the Forest Preserves will provide the land and new location, but the nonprofit organization Noonan is setting up must provide all the financing to restore and maintain the monument.

Once in place, the monument will be a tribute for all to see, honoring the sons and daughters who died for our country, and also recognizing Gold Star mothers of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Lavin looks forward to the monument serving as a gathering place for Gold Star families, veterans, and civilians.

"I'm very, very proud of my son. My heart is forever shattered, and my journey is a continual path of finding healing," said Lavin, adding the "monument can stand for the sacrifice; the sacrifice for our children and the sacrifice of our mothers."
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