Civil War vets to get their due
A rendering of a plaque honoring two Winnetka residents who died in the Civil War will eventually be added to the cenotaph honoring soldiers who have died in other wars in the Village Green of Winnetka. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 21, 2012 1:09PM
Thanks to the watchful eye of a former resident, and the fundraising efforts of many, two Winnetka veterans will receive a long overdue honor.
John Chimoures, a former 26-year resident of Winnetka, recently returned to the area and attended his first Memorial Day service at the Cenotaph on the village green in years. After hearing the names of all of Winnetka’s fallen heroes Chimoures went to inspect the monument up close.
“It dawned on me that the two civil war soldiers are not on the Cenotaph,” Chimoures said. “I asked (Winnetka Historical Society Executive Director) Patti Van Cleave about it and she had no idea why.”
Civil War veterans Charles Davis and George Willson have been honored every Memorial Day by having their names read aloud with other Winnetka veterans, but their names do not appear among the fallen soldiers who are permanently honored on the monument.
Although Winnetka wasn’t incorporated until 1869, four years after the Civil War ended, Davis was the first Winnetka soldier to die in the battle.
Willson served as a physician in the Union Navy during the war. According to a historical society newsletter, Willson died of yellow fever, which he contracted while treating soldiers for the disease.
The Cenotaph, which honors Winnetkans lost in battle, was erected in 1927 to honor World War I casualties. Over the years the names of World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans who gave their lives for the United States were added, but never the names of Willson and Davis.
Chimoures and Van Cleave contacted VFW Post 4831 Quartermaster Phil Hoza and soon a campaign was underway to raise the $625 needed to cast a new bronze star. The star will bear the names of the Civil War veterans and will be attached to the Cenotaph.
“There are people who could cover the cost in one or two donations, but (Chimoures) wanted to spread it to everyone,” Hoza said of the $25 maximum donation allowed. “We’re within $30. Once we get (the star) it will be installed and we’ll probably have a public dedication on Memorial Day.”
Spending three years each with Winnetka Cub Scout Pack 20 and Boy Scout Troop 18, Chimoures marched for six years in the village’s Memorial Day Parade, which concluded with a ceremony at the Cenotaph. He decided to reach out to his former scouts first for help.
“I emailed my Boy Scout and Cub Scout friends who marched in the parades with me,” Chimoures said. “(Hoza) sent out an email through the chamber of commerce. It spread through word of mouth and several people sent donations in.”
Leading the effort to finally honor the two men whose names have long been absent on the monument was more of a personal goal for Chimoures.
“I grew up in Winnetka and played on the village green often,” he said. “I always wondered around the Cenotaph and used to play football there. Being a boy in this community I grew up to respect and revere the monument and thought I would spearhead the effort.”