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The Abandoned WWI Monument One Chicago Man Is Determined To Save
When Tim Noonan learned of a WWI monument hidden in his Chicago neighborhood, he rallied his community together to help preserve it.

Friday, November 02, 2018
Chicago Patch

The Abandoned WWI Monument One Chicago Man Is Determined To Save

When Tim Noonan learned of a WWI monument hidden in his Chicago neighborhood, he rallied his community together to help preserve it.

By Folgers Coffee, Brand Partner | | Updated
The Abandoned WWI Monument One Chicago Man Is Determined To Save

This article is brought to you by Folgers®.

In late 2012, the local Forest Preserves unearthed an abandoned World War One monument in the Dan Ryan Woods. The only clue about its origin was a small plaque near the top that read, "Chicago Council of Gold Star Mothers." It was clear that a larger plaque was missing, but no one was sure what the plaque said or how long the monument had been hidden beneath the invasive plants.

Luckily, one Chicago resident, Tim Noonan, lived near those woods — and he would stop at nothing to uncover the monument's mysterious backstory.

A Quest For Information

A few years prior, Noonan had spent Veterans Day touring various war monuments with his brother, a veteran who served in Desert Storm. As they looked around, the two noticed that there weren't many monuments commemorating WWI.

"We could only find a handful of WWI monuments," says Noonan. "They were there, but nobody was documenting them." So when a WWI monument showed up right in Noonan's backyard, he knew how important it was to make sure the monument was restored and protected.



"We should honor these monuments, respect them and take care of them," Noonan says.

He quickly went to work by emailing the local paper, The Beverly Review, hoping they would have some information about the monument's origin. This would be the first of many inquiries and deep research.

Eventually, Noonan discovered that in 1928 the Chicago council merged into what is now the American Gold Star Mothers Inc. This organization, still in existence today, consists of mothers whose children lost their lives in military service. Thanks to newspaper archives, he also discovered that the Dan Ryan Woods monument was associated with this organization and was erected in honor of WWI.

Noonan wanted to help restore the monument, but he had no idea of where to start or what questions to ask. There was an urgency, too, now that the monument, no longer covered by invasive species, was exposed to the elements.

"It was decaying in our own community, and we couldn't let it go," Noonan says.

After his own research began leading to dead ends in 2017, Noonan put a call out in the local newspaper, proposing a community meeting to consider what to do. "A lot of people had asked and inquired about it, but I think I was the only one who really went that extra step to organize people," he says.

Noonan wasn't sure if the meeting would be well attended — especially given the rainy weather that made it difficult to drive on the night of the meeting. Still, around 15 people showed up. One of those people was a member of the press who wrote an article about the monument, catching the attention of local public officials. They reached out to Noonan asking how they could help, and that's when things really started moving.


The Team And Supporters

Support didn't just come from public officials, however. Many community members expressed an interest, too. "A lot of people have come from different backgrounds and reasonings to support this. They bring their own history to the project," Noonan says. "It's not just veterans; it's not just community people. It's people who are genuinely finding that this is something worthwhile. And that's really heartwarming."

To unite the team of volunteers, Tim named the group the Chicago Council of Gold Star Mothers, an homage to the people who first commissioned the monument. As the organization's director, Noonan is currently filing for nonprofit status so that the group can continue to raise money for both restoration and maintenance on the monument.

"There is truly strong support for this project and it grows as we educate people about the Gold Star Mothers and WWI," Tim says.

Having a strong, diverse support has come in handy, both for research (like trying to find out what was printed on the original plaque), as well as in finding a new home for the memorial. The community settled on a spot near the visitor's center, which is also near a new planned children's play area. Noonan says, "We want to pique the interest of children and make them curious about what this is all about."

As Noonan has worked with fellow community members, he has learned so much not only about the history of WWI in his area but also about his neighbors. He thinks that while the monument's message speaks to people on a local level, it's important on a national level as well.

"These times that we're in are very fractured. The core values of this monument really resonate with everybody," says Noonan. "Veterans, parents, community – I think in this time, it is a unifying measure to bring people together from all stripes."


Helping Other Communities

After doing all the research for the local monument, Noonan started a Facebook page with the hope that other communities with monuments in need of restoration could use it as a resource. "I've been posting about different WWI monuments across the U.S. that are either being celebrated or being restored, so I do pass on as much as I can." Noonan says he's also willing to talk to anyone who needs advice on where to start with their own community's restorations.

The official rededication of the memorial will be November 8, 2018. It falls just three days before the 100-year anniversary of Armistice Day, which ended World War I. Anyone interested in donating to help restore the monument can visit and click on the Donate button.

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