Longtime Caretaker Saying Goodbye to WWII Memorial
Many people come to the Erie County World War II Memorial on 26th and State Streets in Erie. They stop by periodically to pay their respects to those who died in that war. But, there's one person that's been coming to the site just about every week.
Tim Ferguson has been coming to the World War II Memorial practically every Saturday for the last 20 years. He's been in charge of making sure the memorial looks its best for visitors. It was Tim's dad, John Ferguson, who was the driving force for creating the memorial. It was dedicated in 1999. The elder Ferguson was in charge of maintenance for the first few years.
"After his management for the first 4 or 5 years, he asked me to get involved,” says Tim. “It was my dad. What are you going to say? So, I kind of took over the physical maintenance of the memorial and also the fund raising aspects of it."
Tim would mow and trim the grass. He would wash the large compass design on the walkway leading to the memorial. He would do any kind of maintenance and improvement. His work wasn't just a tribute to his dad, who was a World War II veteran and 25 year director of the Erie County Veterans Affairs office. It also was a tribute to the 727 veterans whose names are on the wall.
"These sacrifices should always be remembered. I just enjoy coming up. It's been a wonderful part of my life. It has given meaning to my life now,” says Tim.
A third of the soldiers and sailors whose names are on the wall never made it back to Erie County for burial. Tim says he will always remember talking with the relatives of those veterans and watching them spend time looking at the name of their loved one or ancestor.
"For a lot of families that take time to remember them, this is the only spot in the world where they can actually see their loved one's name,” he says.
As Tim got older, he has delegated some of his responsibilities at the memorial. For example, a garden club called “The Seedlings” has been doing the landscaping work for the past few years. But, now it's time to let go. Like his dad before him, Tim realizes it is time to step down from taking care of the memorial.
"It's very emotional. I mean, it's something I want to do but it's a tough pill to swallow,” he says.
Tim's last day in charge of maintenance is June 1. The board of directors of the Erie County Veterans Memorial Park will take over the responsibilities. Tim will continue to honor veterans in this area. He is a bugler and plays taps at military funerals.