On Sunday afternoon, May 28, 1922, two days before Memorial Day itself, Radnor township’s memorial to its servicemen who gave their lives in World War I was unveiled. The unveiling ceremony was performed by a little girl and two small boys, all the children of men who fell in battle. They were Frances Cotter, daughter of William Powell Cotter, Supply Company, 315th Infantry, who was killed in September, 1918, and Pennington Howard Way and Gordon Townsend Way, sons of Lt. Pennington H. Way, of the 96th Aero Squadron, who was shot down in a fight with eight German planes at the beginning of the St. Mihiel drive. These three children pulled the cords which drew back the veiling flags from the bronze.
This ceremony followed the dedication address given by Senator George Wharton Pepper, who was introduced by Captain Sydney Roberts, at that time commander of Anthony Wayne Post, American Legion, under whose auspices the ceremonies were held. Senator Pepper said in part:
“It seems to me that but little speaking is in order when grateful friends gather to pay tribute to those who did not speak, but achieved. We are assembled here where two roads meet and where the stream of life flows ceaselessly by. Presently we shall pass on and everything will look as it was before we came. But in that brief interval something will have happened that will have changed the spot forever.
“In that brief time, we shall, by dedicating this memorial, have given it a tongue with which to speak. It will bid the traveler pause and listen to the message that this spot is sacred forever to the men and women of this community who offered their lives when their country called. Twenty were taken. Today that 20 are part of the great community of invisible comrades, an army of occupation on that far shore, holding a place there for those of us who prove worthy. Shall we not here highly resolve to lead our lives so that when we join those twenty they will salute us?”
In the bright sunlight of a quiet Sunday afternoon, members of Anthony wayne, American Legion, Bullock-Sanderson Post of Ardmore, and John Winthrop Post, of Bryn Mawr, headed by the Marine Band from the Navy Yard and a detachment of Marines, had marched from St. Davids to the center of Lancaster Pike and Ivan avenue when the war memorial stood ready to be unveiled.
The memorial itself stood on ground owned by the Chew family since pre-Revolutionary days. On behalf of his family, David Chew presented the property to Radnor township “forever” as part of the dedication services. These services were opened with a prayer by the Rev. Richard H. Gurley, chaplain of Anthony Wayne Post, followed by the singing of “America” by the children of the township schools. The report of the Monument Committee was read by its chairman, Mrs. Robert G. Wilson. After Mr. Chew had presented the deed to the property to William S. Ellis, then chairman of the Board of Commissioners, it was accepted on behalf of the people of the township by Mr. Ellis. Following the unveiling, the Marines fired a salute of three volleys and trumpeters played “taps.”
Several thousand people were present for this occasion, among them the families of servicement for whom special seats had been reserved. Servicement whose names are commemorated on the bronze plaque include those of Norman B. Hallman, William Bateman, Philip Overton Mills, Clinton Van Pelt Newbold, Thomas Roberts Reath, George H. Righter, David Rupp, 3d, William Henry Sayen Schultz, Alec Scott, Joseph Odorisio, William Powell Cotter, William Craig Dickson, Howard Ray Duncan, George Farrell, Thomas Foy, Clarence Patton Freeman, Edward Gallagher and Joseph M. Gardner. Above these names is this inscription:
“To the men and women of Radnor township who served in the World War and to those who gave their lives.”
The bronze bas-relief was the world of Dr. R. Tait McKenzie, of the University of Pennsylvania. In writing of it, Edith W. Powell, columnist of the “Public Ledger,” made some interesting comments. “Dr. McKenzie’s bas-relief,” she says, “shows at the top, forming a freize, a group of soldiers with pointed bayonets rushing up and forward . . . In this tablet the value of space for emphasis is at once obvious. The general design could not be more simple or more forceful and direct in the delivery of its message . . . First of all, in the freize Dr. McKenzie has succeeded in producing a convincing effect of strain and onrushing motion, a most difficult performance . . . it is not hard to realize that the necessity to incorporate a number of their pointed bayonets in a sculptured design presents a problem requiring considerable engineering ingenuity, and a delicate sense of composition. Dr. McKenzie’s management of the bayonets could not be more successful or interesting . . . Consider how their horizontal lines lead to the impression of thrust, and observe how expertly the directions of them are related to each other and to the carved boundary at the bottom.”
Dr. McKenzie himself gave high praise to Louis S. Adams, the St. Davids architect who designed the monument. “Mr. Adams,” he said, “has an unusual sense of fitness. Not only is the monument very fine in design, but it seems to me a matter of particular comment that he has so stained the marble with rusty color that it harmonizes with the field stone of the wall. I feel sure many architects would have been satisfied to leave the glaring white of the marble as it was.”
The beauty of the monument has always been enhanced by the background of trees. The planting of flowers and shrubs on the plot was the especial gift of school children of Radnor township.
The account book of the Memorial Fund, so carefully kept by the treasurer, Miss Grace Roberts, shows that in all $9,610.78 in money contributions was received for the erection of the Memorial. This represents contributions, both large and small, from many hundreds of people. In addition, there were countless gifts other than money, such as the land given by the Chew family, the stone for the wall, plans for the memorial, printing of all stationery, slides for motion pictures, bunting and flags for the dedication, the services of buses, the use of chairs for the dedication and many other items of equal importance. The monument was in truth the gift of the community itself to commemorate its warrior dead of World War I.
Until almost a month after the dedication checks continued to come in. By the middle of August all bills were paid. And on June 7, 1924, more than $1200 was turned over to the Board of Commissioners for the care and upkeep of the memorial, where on each Memorial Day since 1922 homage has been paid to the men of Radnor township who lost their lives in World War I.
(Your columnist is indebted to Miss Grace Roberts for the information contained in these two articles. Miss Roberts has not only kept intact the financial records, but the minutes of all meetings, the correspondence in regard to the memorial and several interesting newspaper clippings.)