League Of Wives Memorial Project ...

The City Council accepted a gift of public art at a meeting last week from the League of Wives Memorial Project Foundation. The bronze sculpture, created by artists Christopher Slatoff and Elizabeth Pollnow, features the late Sybil Stockdale, a Coronado resident who led the fight for better treatment of their husbands, Vietnam Prisoners of War, and their release. At a meeting on July 19, the Council allocated up to $100,000 for the installation of the new artwork.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting on July 19, the Cultural Arts Commission presented their proposal for a new public art piece to be installed in Coronado that recognizes the important advocate work done by the League of Wives (also known today as the National League of POW/MIA Families) that was started by military spouses in Coronado. The Cultural Arts Commission noted the memorial is a part of the group’s efforts to preserve, reflect, and celebrate Coronado’s history and cultural heritage.

The artists behind the proposed “The League of Wives” statue are Chris Slatoff (who sculpted the Sheltering Wings public art piece in the Cays) and Elizabeth Pollnow. Their design features four women (representing the national community that came together to support this movement), led by Sybil Stockdale, with a plaque behind them commemorating Stockdale and the League of Wives’ advocacy for the humane treatment and the return of POWs and accountability for soldiers missing in action during the Vietnam War, for the families left behind, and more. As viewers step up to the plaque, they become the fifth member of the group making this statue a living memorial and connecting the threads of the past to the present day.

The design has had input from a variety of local community members including from military spouses, retirees, and veterans, as well as regular review by members of the National League of POW/MIA Families, two of Stockdale’s children, Sid and Taylor Stockdale, historian Heath Hardage Lee, and the Coronado Public Arts team.

The statue would stand at about six and a half feet tall and about three and a half feet across on a slightly raised ovular cement platform (about eight feet by seven feet) that would have a small incline to the plaque for accessibility. The material used for the memorial would primarily be bronze alloy and annual maintenance would be limited to a recommended two cleanings per year.

Three potential locations have been selected as recommendations for the City Council to review, two of which are at Star Park in spots that would not interfere with either events that take place at the park or views of the ocean. The other proposed location is in the park area by the Coronado Public Library (towards Sixth Street) where it would be placed near the sidewalk on Orange Avenue. Each potential installation site would include creating a path to and around the statue that would allow it to be accessible to all.

During a period of public comment, the Council heard support from some community members including Allen Broughton who spoke on behalf of the Coronado Marine Corps League. “These women represent all military spouses and the heroes that they are,” Broughton commented. Susan Keith also spoke during this time to voice her support for placing this memorial at Star Park. “[Stockdale] was a remarkable woman and I was honored to know her,” Keith noted. “I would urge you to put this in Star Park. That’s where we honor our heroes in this town.”

In discussion amongst the councilmembers, all were very supportive of the efforts to commemorate the work and the movement that Stockdale and the League of Wives contributed so powerfully to. Councilmember Donovan did bring forth concerns he had with the memorial being placed in Coronado given the limited amount of green space on the island and the countless number of heroes that could be paid tribute to through memorials in Coronado’s future.

Donovan suggested pivoting efforts to advocate for this statue to be housed in Washington D.C. with a smaller memorial to be placed in Star Park in Coronado. Additionally, he noted that perhaps adjusting the title on the plaque of the statue reflect the current name of the group as the League of POW/MIA Families rather than the League of Wives given that Stockdale had renamed the group not long after its founding to include all those affected by the issue.

The remaining councilmembers were in agreement that Coronado was the right place for this memorial statue with Councilmembers Sandke and Tanaka voicing their support for its placement at Star Park in particular. Tanaka also suggested the City agree to allocate up to $100,000 for the installation fees rather than the proposed $75,000 to relieve any additional burden of fundraising that the League of Wives Memorial Project would need to do in addition to what they’ve already donated to commission this piece, given that the City’s General Fund can accommodate that and show the City’s support for this memorial in that way as well.

Councilmember Heinze suggested that the City look into even more prominent locations in Coronado for this memorial to be placed so that all visitors would have the opportunity to see and learn about this important piece of history.

A motion was made to accept the Cultural Arts Commission’s recommendations with an increased installation fee limit to $100,000 and to direct City staff to vet any other potential prominent locations for the memorial on the island but to tentatively accept the proposed “Site A” at Star Park should no other viable sites be brought forth. The motion passed with all councilmembers voting in favor with the exception of Donovan, who abstained from the vote.

VOL. 112, NO. 30 - July 27, 2022

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