The waiting family
CHRIS PARKER/TIMES NEWS Clad in World War II-era garb, Lori Strauch, her son Luke, 10 and friend Rachelle Filer, 8, portray a wartime mother keeping the home fires burning while her husband fights overseas. The Strauchs and Filer are the models for a statue to be featured on the Womens Memorial wishing well in the Veterans Memorial Park on Third Street in Coaldale.
Clad in a 1940s style dress, her hair pulled up into pretty World War II-era do, Lori Strauch stands in front of the wishing well in the Coaldale Women's Memorial Garden on Third Street, her son Luke, 10, and neighbor Rachelle Filer, 8, both also in period dress, at her side.
The three bring to life the vision of a soldier's family, keeping the home fires burning while waiting for their husband and father to safely return from fighting the war.
Strauch, her son and Rachelle, all of Coaldale, so accurately portray the waiting family that they have been chosen as the models for a granite statue that will grace the wishing well in the Women's Memorial, which is within the Veterans' Memorial Garden.
The 26-inch statue will be carved of granite by an employee of Walters Memorials Inc., of Summit Hill, over the winter. Business owner Craig Walters provided all the granite for the WW II Memorial wall, the Korean, Vietnam Wars, and the "Desert Storm" Memorial columns in the Veterans' Memorial Garden. Walters also provided the granite for the Women's Memorial wishing well.
Strauch is the wife of William Strauch; Rachelle is the daughter of Nancy and James Filer.
Rachelle said she feels proud to have her likeness preserved as part of the memorial. Strauch said she, too, is "proud and excited" to be part of the project, as is Luke.
Luke is a great grandson to a WW II pilot who gave the ultimate sacrifice in that war, and a grandson to two U.S. Marines, one of whom served in Vietnam.
Rachelle is a student at Our Lady of the Angels Academy. Her brother, Craig, is a Lance Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. Rachelle's two grandfathers, Don Filer and William O'Donnell, both served in WW II. Corporal Filer was awarded two Purple Hearts among other combat decorations.
William O'Donnell served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater. Rachelle's great aunt was a U.S. Navy lieutenant commander in WW II, serving as a nurse.
Three of Rachelle's uncles and two of her cousins served in our nation's military. Two cousins, Walter Breiner and Shawn Sitler, are currently serving in the military.
In addition to the statue of the family, the wishing well memorial will also include four 18-inch square black granite images. They will represent contributions of Coaldale women.
Among those honored are Mr. and Mrs. Frank Urban, the parents of TIMES NEWS Editor Bob Urban. Bob is shown as a child with his mother, Mary. His dad is shown in military uniform.
The images will also include a photo of Mrs. Mary Nesterak, Coaldale's last surviving Gold Star Mother, and an image of Coaldale women serving as nurses during the flu epidemic of 1918. A fourth image remains to be selected.
"I am grateful that two Coaldale families; both with wonderful military histories, have agreed to serve as models for the granite statue which will be placed in our beautiful wishing well," said memorial designer Bill Gaddes. "We have a unique and beautiful memorial to all women, not just those who served, but those who supported; prayed; and through their prayers brought their loved ones home from harm's way."
Coaldale's Veterans and Women's Memorial Committee and the Coaldale United Veterans Organization have begun the final phase of the memorial gardens.
A Battlefield Cross in bronze will be placed in the Veterans Garden to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. This bronze will consist of a helmet, an M-14 combat rifle, and a pair of combat boots.
Between the boots are a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. The Battlefield Cross is the work of noted military sculptor Andrew Chernak of Philadelphia.
Approximately 140 inscribed bricks will be installed in the sidewalks before Memorial Day. Those interested in assisting to defray the cost of the final phase may contact Mildred Flyzik at (570) 645-9605. Contributions may be mailed to WW II Memorial Fund, Borough of Coaldale, Box 116, Coaldale, PA 18218.
Gaddes and all involved in the creation of the Memorial Garden and the Women's Memorial invite the public to the borough's Memorial Day services on Sunday. A service will be held at the Seek Veterans memorial at 1 p.m.; and at the Coaldale Borough Hall on Third Street at 2:30 p.m.
"Please join us as we honor those who served, and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom," Gaddes said.