Photos by Tom Rivers
MEDINA – The bronze statue of a soldier, resembling a doughboy from pre-World War II, was mounted atop a monument today in front of the Orleans County YMCA. Cody Dix of the Medina DPW is at right.
That building has been a Y for more than three decades. But for 76 years it was the Medina Armory, a site used to train soldiers for battle.
The new statue looks to be right at home by the former Armory.
The Armory opened in 1901. In 1977, it was closed by the National Guard.
Bill Menz trained at the building in 1953, when he joined Company C of the 174th Armored Infantry. He was promoted to corporal before transferring to active duty in 1956 to the US Army National Guard. He would come back to Medina and work about 40 years in construction as a plasterer/mason.
When the Armory closed, Bill Menz was on the committee that helped it find a new use as a YMCA. Menz, who died at age 86 on July 16 last year, wanted the community to know the building’s historical role in preparing soldiers to fight on behalf of the country. He teamed with his friend John Fuller to create a sandstone monument in front of the Y that listed 550 soldiers who trained at the Armory and were then deployed in wars. Menz and Fuller cut the stone and built the monument.
But it wasn’t done. Menz wanted a bronze statue of a soldier on top. He pushed for nearly a decade to raise the $65,000 for the statue. He was able to see it in pieces at the foundry before his death. His daughter, Lynne Menz, included some of her father’s ashes underneath the statue’s base, just before it was mounted today.
Mary Beth Germano, center, is one of Menz’s four children. She takes a photo of the statue being moved out of the former Armory, down Pearl Street and to the front lawn of the building.
Germano thanked the local residents and many veterans’ organizations for supporting the project with donations.
“It’s emotional seeing it,” she said after the installation this morning. “It’s a great community effort.”
Her father was unwavering in pushing the project in the community.
“When he had his mind set on something, it was full-speed ahead,” Germano said.
Ben Lacy, right, of the Medina DPW was off from work today but wanted to help with the statue installation. Lacy grew up next door to Menz. Lacy said he admired Menz’s determination in working on the monument and memorial for the local soldiers.
“Bill was dedicated to get this done and I wanted to help today to get this up and done,” Lacy said.
Mayor Michael Sidari was among the onlookers watching the statue installation today. He said the statue is great addition to Medina.
“It’s a great tribute to the members that served our country out of the Armory,” Sidari said. “Many came back and many did not. Those that did continued to serve their community.”
Medina next month will also welcome the return of a World War I cannon. It had been a fixture at State Street Park for about 80 years. It has been gone since March 2018 while the cannon has been refurbished in Altoona, Pa. at Seed Artillery Reproduction and Restoration. It is coming back to Medina on May 1 and will be rededicated on Memorial Day.
The statue is expected to be formally dedicated during a ceremony in September. That will give time for landscaping work and some changes to be made to the plaques on the monument. Some lights may also be added to the site.
For more on the statue and monument, click here.