Betty Cook

Betty Cook

Fundraisers included ‘Gettysburg’ premiere

Editor’s note: Marshals for the 25th Union County Veterans’ 4th of July Parade will include early committee members. The Standard-Journal will feature stories on the men and women of the parade’s founding. Though not all served a committee, they were there at the start.

LEWISBURG — Lewisburg’s Betty Cook was instrumental in the 1990s effort to restore the Civil War memorial, a restoration which inspired the Union County Veterans’ 4th of July Parade.

The fix-up of that monument, at South Third Street and University Avenue, engendered a wave of community spirit which had reportedly faded. Vandals had also taken a toll, notably on metal figures of a soldier and sailor and it looked like restoration would be costly.

Though attribution of the damage to anti-war sentiment during the Vietnam era was a widely held suspicion, Cook suspected the damage was more mundane criminal mischief.

Cook noted the early estimates for restoration of the copper soldier and sailor and rehab of the monument were in the neighborhood of $42,000. Improvements would also include a fence around the monument and lighting.

Cook recalled the participation of Nada Gray, borough manager, Graham Showalter, Al Hess, and Henry Halverson on one of the early committees. The late Bob Benfer, Thomas Kreamer and Alfred Byrd rounded out the original seven members. They or their descendants will be honored as grand marshals of the 2019 parade.

Committee meetings were first held on the second floor of what is now the Coldwell Banker building on Market Street. It was then a borough office building.

The fundraising was slow at first.

Cook recalled the display of the monuments on the island at Milton State Park among fundraising efforts. Another fundraiser involved the local premiere of “Gettysburg,” the 1993 epic-length film about the northernmost Civil War battle. The statuary was on display in the Campus Theatre, Cook recalled, and more than a dozen Civil War reenactors made their way down its two aisles.

“The fellows were great,” Cook said. “We had a young man from Ford City (Armstrong County) who was a high school kid. He was a drummer and had participated in the movie.”

Many of the reenactors that day at the Campus were extras in the film. Cook added that Ted Turner, producer of “Gettysburg,” credited them for the authenticity they brought to the production.

It took two years to raise enough money to give the monument a thorough makeover.

Cook said the idea of the parade may have begun when Hess suggested she walk down Market Street when the monument was ready to be rededicated. Showalter then suggested having a dedication parade. They then began inviting people and bands and the parade became an annual tradition after the success of the first one.

Cook still has a collection of costumes which she made for the parade, much as she had for the Lewisburg Victorian Holiday Parade.

Visit www.unioncountyveterans4thofjuly.com, call 844-VETSDAY or email info@unioncountyveterans4thofjuly.com for more information about the 25th annual parade and related events. The parade is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 29 on the streets of Lewisburg.

 

Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at matt@standard-journal.com.

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