At 10 a.m. on Friday, July 26, a ground breaking ceremony will be held at the Austintown Fitch Stadium for the new memorial to two fallen Fitch veterans. It is a project that has exceeded expectations and has grown through community support.
"I never saw people jump on board something like this in my life, and I'm 70," said Jack Kidd, co-chair for the project. "Back in February it was just going to be a rock with a plaque on it."
The project came about after the class of 1962 held their 50th reunion last year. As the class members' names were read, the final two brought tears to everyone's eyes. Sgt. James Prommersberger and Lt. Charles Brown graduated from Fitch and went into the military. They served and died in Vietnam. Kidd and classmate Larry Cadman came up with a plan to construct a memorial at the south end of Fitch Stadium, and since both Prommersberger and Brown were former Falcon football players, the site seemed appropriate.
The fundraiser involved Cadman making wooden ink pens using wood from the gym floor at the old Fitch building on Mahoning Avenue. The sale of the pens took off and donations from all over poured in as well. Kidd and Cadman not only made the funds they needed, but exceeded the amount. The memorial stone turned into a brick monument that will be built over the next month. Kidd said he hopes to see it done by Labor Day.
The project committee needs to purchase the building materials, but as far as having the contractors to build it, Kidd said it is another case of people getting behind a good community cause.
"The bricklayers union contacted us and wanted to donate their time as a way of paying Austintown Schools back for using them on the new schools," Kidd said.
At this point, all the labor for the project is being donated.
One addition to the project is the old Fitch flagpole. It was carefully removed from the football field on which Prommersberger and Brown played while in high school.
"We now have that flagpole," Kidd said. "It is over 70 years old, but we are going to clean it up and place it with the memorial."
He said the committee has purchased a solar spotlight that will be mounted on the pole to light up the flag at night.
The whole project is covered as far as funds go, but Kidd said there are further plans that are being worked out. He said the excess funds are going to be used to start a scholarship fund for a needy Fitch graduate, possibly on an annual basis.
Kidd said there is a lot going on and the funding is still coming in. He said the committee just recently received a check for $500 from Dr. James Prommersberger, in honor of his father. He was only three years old when his father died in battle. He also had a daughter who was two at the time. Recently, the two came across an old reel-to-reel tape with their father's voice on it. It took them time to find a machine to play it, but when they did, it was the first time they heard their father's voice since he left for Vietnam.
"We know that in building this memorial, we are doing the right thing," Kidd said.
In preparation for the Friday groundbreaking, the school has moved the fencing back so all will have easy access to the memorial. Kidd also mentioned that several dignitaries will be on hand as well. He confirmed former U.S. Rep. John Boccieri and Ohio Sen. Joe Schiavoni, both whom are veterans.
"Everyone who picks up a gold shovel on Friday will be veterans," Kidd said.