Building memorial proved monumental effort

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 April 2015 at 12:00 am

Heritage Hero: William Menz

Photos by Tom Rivers – William Menz stands next to a monument that was dedicated in October 2008 to soldiers in Company F that trained at the Medina Armory. There are 550 names included on the monument for local soldiers who fought in wars on behalf of the United States. Menz is trying to raise funds for a bronze statue of a soldier to be on top of the monument.

MEDINA – In 1977, the National Guard left the Medina Armory, a site on Pearl Street in Medina that had been used to train soldiers since the building opened in 1901.

(Company F, which formed in 1891, trained at a different location prior to the Armory.)

Bill Menz was one of the soldiers to train in the Armory. That was for 18 months when he was in the National Guard in the 1950s. He served on active duty in Greenland. He attained the rank of a corporal E-4.

Courtesy of Bill Menz – Bill Menz is pictured with his wife Elizabeth in the mid-1950s. The couple, now married for 62 years, raised four children in Medina.

Menz loved the 90,000-square-foot Armory building, a striking location built of local Medina sandstone. Menz used to work in the plaster business and some of his work had him inside YMCAs.

When the Guard left the building, Menz was on the Armory Action Committee looking for a new use for the site. Menz pitched the plan to have a YMCA go in there. The organization has used the Armory since the early 1980s, and just spent about $600,000 in a capital improvement project.

Menz is grateful the Y has proven a good fit for the building.

“In 1977, the town was wondering what to do with the building,” Menz said. “Bringing in the Y was a no-brainer. Everything you did to train guys for war you could train them for peace.”

Courtesy Medina Sandstone Society – Company F prepares to leave Medina Oct. 24, 1940 for training at Fort McClellan and active duty in WWII.

While Menz is pleased the Y has put the building to good use, he started to worry about a decade ago that the community was forgetting the original purpose of the Armory and the many local men who trained there, who fought for the country – with many losing their lives in war.

In 2006, he launched a push for a monument in front of the building. The five-sided monument would take two years to get built, raising money, lining up in-kind donations, and researching the names of those who served in five wars.

Provided photo – Bill Menz, left, and John Fuller work on the monument’s construction. They cut and grinded the stone for the project, using a shop owned by John’s son Dave at Gulf Street and Ryan Road for most of the work.

Menz would serve as chairman of the effort, and teamed with his friend John Fuller to cut the stone for the monument. It lists the names of the 550 soldiers who fought in five wars – the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Mexican Border Incursion of 1916, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War period from 1947 to 1977.

The monument notes if soldiers were killed in action, missing in action, and if they received Purple Heart, Medal of Honor and other recognition.

“Over the past 37 years he has worked harder than most any other Medinan to preserve the history of our community in helping fight the nation’s wars,” Robert Waters, president of the Medina Sandstone Society, said in a letter nominating Menz for a “Heritage Hero.”

Menz and three others were presented with their Heritage Hero awards last Friday during a reception at GCC in Medina during the first day of the Civil War Encampment.

Photos by Tom Rivers – John Butts is among the names of local soldiers on the monument at the Armory. Butts was killed in Normany during World War II. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and the American Legion post in Medina is named in his memory.

Waters said Menz was tenacious in seeing the monument through to completion, including taking on the task of grinding and milling stone segments for the project.

“He was, in fact, like a bulldog and never once considered giving up his dream,” Waters said. “There seemed to be no end to the effort. The days were busy.”

When the monument was dedicated on Oct. 14, 2008, some of the widows and family members of World War II soldiers and other veterans in Company F attended and expressed their appreciation.

Bill Menz looks over some of the names of local soldiers listed on the monument outside the Medina Armory.

Menz said many community members contributed to the effort and continue to help in maintaining the grounds, especially a local garden club.

The community gave $18,000 in money towards the project, and others donated materials and labor to get the monument built. Menz estimates the combined value of all those donations at about $80,000.

The monument isn’t quite done.

Menz has wanted a bronze statue of a soldier, someone who looks between 18 and 21, to be on top of the monument.

He is leading the effort to solicit bids for the bronze statue. It will be 5 foot, 9 inches from head to toe.

“The life-sized statue will provide a meaningful depiction of those deployed men whose names are engraved on the monument plaques,” Menz said.

He thinks about the 120 men who left Medina in 1940, boarding a train down the street. They were gone for five years during World War II, with some not returning home alive.

He wants that sacrifice to be recognized by the community.

This depiction shows how a bronze statue of a soldier would look on top of the monument by the Medina Armory. The soldier would be holding a rifle, campaign hat, World War I-era backpack and mess kit.

Menz said the bronze statue can be a reality “for the price of a new pickup truck.”

The Company F Memorial Committee is working with the Orleans County Joint Veterans Council and Lincoln Post No. 1483 VFW on the project. For more information about the statue and monument, click here.

Any donations for the statue can be mailed to Company F Monument, P.O. Box 522, Medina NY, 14103.

Bill Menz said the statue of the soldier would be a perfect compliment to the monument by the Armory.