Contributions sought to restore Towson's World War I monument

Officials gathered in the rain at the base of the Wayside Cross in Towson Thursday morning to announce an effort to raise funds to renovate and maintain the 97-year-old monument to Baltimore Countians who died serving the United States in World War I.

April 6 is the 100th anniversary of America's entrance into World War I.

The Baltimore County Monument Commission's goal is to raise $50,000 for restoration and maintenance.

The cross, near the traffic circle in downtown Towson, has been a gathering place for Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies.

The monument's granite needs to be repointed, according to commission chairman Mike Lawlor, meaning the joints between pieces of stone have to be filled with mortar to prevent water from seeping in, freezing and expanding, damaging the monument.

The poles and chains that surround the monument are rusting, Lawlor added, and lights to illuminate the cross don't work. In addition to issues surrounding the monument, two flag poles flanking the cross aren't illuminated, Lawlor said.

Because the flags stay up overnight, the lack of illumination is a breach of flag etiquette, according to Lawlor, a Vietnam War Army veteran.

Lawlor would like to see lights added to the discolored poles, which he said need to be refinished.

The commission doesn't have official estimates for the repair costs. Lawlor estimates that the repairs will cost between $10,000 and $30,000. The remainder of the $50,000, if it is raised, will go toward maintenance of the monument, as well as other monuments in the county.

Commission member John Ruffer, a former Marine, said the restoration is important to him as a sign of respect for military members who served during the conflict, also called The Great War.

"Those people gave their life for our freedoms we enjoy today, and they should be respected," Ruffer said.

Another commission member and former Marine, Daryl Reese, said "it's important for history to be passed on to our future generations."

The Wayside Cross was erected in 1920 and dedicated on Defender's Day, Sept. 12, 1921, according to the Maryland Historical Trust. A capsule summary sheet, which describes the history and significance of the cross, said the monument was presented to county commissioners by a memorial committee during the dedication.

The names of 204 individuals are on three bronze plaques, along with a fourth plaque that bears an inscription.

"To the scared sons and daughters of Baltimore County who dying for their country in the World War gave proof undying of patriotism supreme this symbol of love victorious in death is dedicated by their fellow citizens," the inscription reads. In quotes below that inscription is a phrase, "Greater love than this hath no man."

County Councilman David Marks, on hand for the announcement, noted that as part of the renovation of the former Hutzler's building adjacent to the cross, that property's owner, Retail Properties of America Inc., is sprucing up the area behind the monument, adding landscaping, masonry work and two pergolas.

To contribute money to repair and maintain the cross, send a check to the Baltimore County Monument Commission, 606 Baltimore Ave, Suite 204 Towson, MD 21204, care of J. Michael Lawlor.

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