June 6, 2013 is 69 years after the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. In Ormond Beach, there's a place where that day and the veterans' scarifies are honored.
BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER
There’s a chair that sits in Ormond Beach, empty. It represents those who didn’t come home, and it has company.
At the southeast corner of Halifax Drive and Granada Boulevard is the Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens. It was built in 1946 by World War II veterans for $10,000, which would translate to approximately $119,000 today.
“In 1946, a lot of (soldiers) had just gotten back from the service,” said Museum Director Susan Richmond. “And a lot them volunteered their time.They volunteered an hour a week and pitched in like a barn raising and physically built the place, and cleared the lands for the garden.”
The museum and garden are home to four war memorials, commemorating those Ormond Beach residents who fought in World War I, WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
The museum’s first artwork was donated by Malcolm Fraser, a WWI veteran and artist, who agreed to provide the museum with art work if it was built along with a memorial for the returning WWII veterans.
Some of Fraser’s artwork still hangs inside the museum today, and he’s honored by the WWI memorial, which stands in front of the museum and faces Halifax Drive.
The roughly five-foot-tall stone monument has three names on it (W. Wallace George, Arthur A. Helm and Harold E. Waldron), and an accompanying flagpole flies an American flag, honoring those who fought for it during the war.
The inside of the museum is calm and serene, much like most art museums or galleries. Near the back, in the part of the museum that was a cottage before it was a museum, are the names of every Ormond Beach resident who fought in WWII, on a bronze plaque.
Words below the plaque state the mission of the museum, and draw a parallel between four wars and an art museum.
The museum was founded, it says, “as a tribute to creative freedom and those who fought valiantly to defend it.”
“We say we pay tribute to veterans and the freedoms they fought so valiantly to defend, because we have the freedom to show a variety of art and artists,” Richmond said.
The museum, unlike others with a connection to military veterans, doesn’t exist to display artwork by veterans or military-themed art. It honors veterans with its walls and its content and its memorials.
On Veterans Day 2010, nearly a year after the Ormond Beach City Commission approved money from tax-increment funding, the memorial to Korean War veterans, which was created by veteran Mark Chew, was unveiled.
“We had lots and lots of veterans that day,” Richmond said. “And there was a lot from the Korean War. They were coming up, repeatedly, and saying, ‘Thank you.’ I’m like, ‘No, we’re doing this to thank you.’”
The Korean War memorial is steal. It’s surrounded by thick Florida landscape and mimics an eternal flame.
The most recent memorial, dedicated to Vietnam War veterans, was revealed Veterans Day 2011.
It depicts a chair, with a helmet, dog tags and a jacket resting on it, with boots sitting in front. The chair memorial wasn’t among the first batch of finalists. The museum “went back to the drawing board,” Richmond said, because they didn’t feel they had the right concept yet.
One of early proposals depicted a soldier, but as Richmond and the committee, made up of veterans and nonveterans, learned, such a memorial would identify with a single branch of the military.
“As soon as the committee saw this one, it was unanimous,” Richmond said. “Everyone got goosebumps with the empty chair for the soldier that didn’t come home.”