Legion Park dedicated in Summit
Refurbished anti-tank gun, bricks honor veterans
By Steve Metsch
A stunning new tribute to our armed forces was dedicated Tuesday evening in Summit.
Legion Park, at the corner of 61st Street and 73rd Avenue, with its refurbished anti-tank gun, flag pole, gazebo and walking paths, is a shining tribute to those who gave their all to our country.
Summit elected officials attended, along with members of the Argo-Summit American Legion Post 735, Lyons Township Supervisor Christopher Getty, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) and other dignitaries.
The half-hour ceremony focused on the sacrifices made by men and women who have served, along with talking of how the anti-tank gun, which for about 30 years had been located near the Summit Police Station on Archer Road, was restored to its former glory.
That task fell upon Joe Werner, owner of The Veterans Garage, 14846 S. McKinley Ave., Posen. He and his crew painstakingly restored the 4-ton weapon.
Now sitting behind a wrought-iron fence in the park, the gun looks as good as new, many observers agreed during Tuesday’s dedication.
Summit Park Board President Pat Tichacek said the American Legion, which decided to sell its building a year ago, approached the park district and asked about preserving some of its mementos, specifically bricks inscribed with names of servicemen and women. The bricks had been on display at the Legion post.
The timing was perfect, she said, as the park district was planning to refurbish Legion Park, located near the former Legion post.
“We decided to form a memorial park in their honor,” she said. “We want this park to have serenity so people can come and reflect and respect and honor all the men and women who have died and are still dying for our freedom.”
The bricks are at the southwest corner of the park. They lead visitors to the gun, and the new flag pole towers behind that, making for an impressive view.
The gun sits where a girls’ softball diamond, seldom used in recent years, had been located.
Summit Mayor Sergio Rodriguez said, “Many people have fond memories of going to events (at the Legion hall.) We’re glad to honor that tradition. I recognize many of the names of people who still reside in Summit.”
“To build a great country, you need individuals who stand for something and are willing to serve this country,” Rodriguez added.
Lipinski, noting his father, former U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski, began his career working in the Chicago Park District, talked of the needs parks serve.
“A park is something that brings people together. My father, more people talk to me about when he worked in the parks, and the difference in made for so many people growing up,” Lipinski said.
Getty thanked the American Legion members for “serving our country and still serving Summit today.” Getty called the park “a great tribute.”
Making it happen wasn’t easy, project manager Sam Krneta said. He searched high and low for someone to refurbish the gun and finally found The Veterans Garage
The gun was donated to the park district 30 years ago, Tichacek said. “Sam worked miracles and found this group to restore it,” she said.
Werner called it “an opportunity” to refurbish the gun. The metal had deteriorated so much, you could pass your hand through gaping holes, Krneta said.
During the renovation, many veterans stopped in for a look-see.
“You gave hundreds (of people) the opportunity to come, see it, appreciate it, and learn about it,” Werner said. “I don’t call it a gun. That, to me, ladies and gentlemen, is a veteran.”
It took a bit over a month to restore, Werner said. He had to out-source some of the work.
An informative storyboard stands in front of the gun, sharing its history and its role in World War II.
Krneta, of Renovation Associates Inc., said this was the first park he’s ever worked on. Looking around, he smiled and said he’s happy with the results.
“That’s a 50-foot flagpole, illuminated at night with three lights. You’ll see it from Harlem Avenue,” Krneta said.
The fence around the gun prevents kids from climbing on it and possibly falling off, Krneta said. There are benches along the walking paths “so you can sit and reflect.” He’s already seen people using the benches.
Argo-Summit Post 735 Cmdr. Reggie Rice was visibly moved by the ceremony.
“Thank you to the village of Summit, Pat Tichacek and her park district for making this all happen. I’m overwhelmed. This is gorgeous,” Rice said.
The memorial bricks have the names of veterans from World War I to recent armed conflicts. One brick is dedicated to the POWs and MIAs.
Each brick has the name, branch of service and years served. Rank is not included because the Legion Post felt those who served, served as a unit.
Tichacek, 80, was floored late in the ceremony when daughter Colleen Lambert, the Summit village clerk, announced the new gazebo beside the flagpole was being named for Tichacek.
“I’ve enjoyed every single day being on the park board. Thank you, thank you,” Tichacek said.
A meal was served afterwards at the park district headquarters.
— Desplaines Valley News