A local effort to design and build a World War II veterans memorial in downtown Bakersfield received a big boost this week when the Bakersfield City Council gave the go-ahead for the construction of the concrete, granite and steel monument at Jastro Park.
"Like Washington, D.C., we built a Korean War memorial and a Vietnam War memorial in Bakersfield before we built a World War II memorial," said Ed Gaede, board president of the nonprofit behind the effort to construct the memorial.
Gaede, a Vietnam veteran, said the group hopes to raise the half-million dollars or so it's going to take to get the job done — and have construction completed by Veterans Day 2022.
Why the hurry?
"Our World War II veterans are in their 90s and 100s," said Kathleen Grainger-Shaffer a member of the nonprofit's board of directors.
"We want them to see this."
Also on the board is Grainger-Shaffer's father, Walter Grainger, a 95-year-old World War II veteran, whose pencil sketch was the beginning of the design concept that is still evolving.
"This is not the final rendition. It's still a work in progress," Grainger-Shaffer said, referring to a poster-size rendering the group brought with them Thursday to Jastro Park, to the spot already chosen for the memorial.
The location, between the Korean War memorial and the park's tennis courts, has already been approved, members of the nonprofit said. The location on the Truxtun Avenue side of the park was purposeful.
"We're going to get there," he said. "We're hell-bent to make this happen."
The concrete, granite and steel structure will honor Kern County's World War II veterans and those whose services were instrumental in supporting America's efforts during that massive global conflict.
But the city was clear that the local nonprofit behind the project must fully fund all costs associated with the design and construction of the memorial. Upon installation, however, the city will maintain the memorial.
The effort to make this idea a reality began years ago when veterans advocate Marc Sandall was attending an event at the park’s Korean War memorial when he asked why there was no memorial in Bakersfield specific to World War II veterans.
He formed the first committee, and despite challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, the effort is still moving forward with help from Klassen Corp. Architecture Construction and other companies offering their services and specialties.
"This year has finally become the year for us," said board secretary Mayde Hurley.
But there's still much to do. And 2022 is not as far away as it seems.