Port Angeles seeks to honor veterans

GoFundMe page to benefit effort to restore and protect Veteran’s Memorial Park

By Margaret Bicker on May 2, 2019

On a recent Friday afternoon, an exact replica of the Liberty Bell rang out across the Port Angeles park, once for each veteran who had passed since the bell had last rung a month ago. It's a tradition at the Port Angeles Veteran's Memorial Park -- one more way in which the park seeks to honor both veterans and their families.

The park was the long-time vision of Marguerite Miller-Harness, a former resident of Port Angeles and employee of the Port Angeles Police Department, who dreamt of a park that would be "a little town center with benches and gardens." When Miller-Harness passed away, she bequeathed part of her estate to the city of Port Angeles, and in 1997, her vision became a reality when the Port Angeles Veteran's Memorial Park opened to the people -- and especially the veterans -- who call Port Angeles home.

But over the past few years, the park has become a gathering place for transients and drug addicts. The replica of the Liberty Bell that was forged in the same foundry as the original has been defaced with graffiti, the walkways and gardens strewn with garbage, needles and human waste.

Karen Rogers, who is the mother of an Iraq war veteran, has had enough. "We have to do something," she recently told King 5 news. "We can't keep enabling this. The park was not built for anything other than the celebration of history and service. We need to restore it to that."

So, Rogers and fellow Port Angeles resident, Becky McGinty, set up a GoFundMe page to raise $17,000 to restore the park to its original condition and to add a fence around the bell and the memorial plaques, some dating from as early as 1947. The fence will be locked at night to keep people from camping there and continuing to deface the memorial.

"When you visit the park and memorial to our veterans, close your eyes and imagine the voices, the conversations, the joy and the tears that have been shared at this site," McGinty wrote on the GoFundMe page. "Our time has come to put a beautiful ornamental fencing to complement the historic area around the Liberty Bell area and restore dignity and honor to our park."

"This place, to me, is the heart of service," Rogers told King 5. "We honor those who have served our country. We honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice."

The public is encouraged to drop by the park, which is located at 217 South Lincoln St. in Port Angeles, to check on the progress being made, to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, and hopefully to be encouraged to donate to the restoration. Donations can be made at gofundme.com/restore-our-veterans-memorial-park.