On July 18th, 2013, the Lancaster Online wrote a story about a local war hero, Major Richard Winters, is having a statue erected in his honor in Ephrata; although, Winters’ family does not want the project to move forward.
Scott Shelley and Rebecca Gallagher, co-chairs to the Winters Leadership Memorial Committee, wrote a letter to Lancaster Newspapers and stated that the objections from the family was a “troubling controversy.”
“The committee admits that we proceeded on this project without consulting the family, an oversight we deeply regret,” the letter states.
“However, we agree with the sentiment that Major Winters is now a public figure. He doesn’t belong to any individual — he belongs to the American people.”
Jill Peckelun, Major Winters daughter, said that she was “certainly disappointed” by the committee’s decision to continue forward.
“We’re not planning on doing anything more about it,” she said. “I have some personal peace because we expressed our point of view. But we can’t control the actions of other people.”
Previously, Peckelun had stated that her father was a very private man who would not want a statue erected of himself in his home town. She also stated that the money being spent on the project would be better used for helping veterans.
“Putting a statue up is not the only way to honor a man,” she said Thursday.
“We feel the best way to honor our father is to pass it forward, to give the attention to the veterans who are alive today. … Clearly, that is not what they have chosen to do.”
Peckelun stated that she has not discussed the project with the members of the statue committee. She did say she received an email from Gallagher expressing the desire to meet with the family.
“There has been enough going on that we decided to not talk about it further as a family,” Peckelun said.
Ephrata native, Major Winters commanded Easy Company when the 101st Airborne Division had parachuted into Normandy on D-Day in June, 1944. His experiences were featured in a book and on the series “Band of Brothers” that ran on HBO.
Winters passed in 2011, two years after he gave his blessing to a statue in St. Marie du Mont in France near the spot where his company landed. Though the statue resembles him, it is to honor all the men who led the charge on D-Day.
When the 1,000 pound, 13 food tall bronze statue was unveiled in June, 2012, the statue’s sculptor, Stephen Spears, offered to create a replica for Ephrata.
The Winters Leadership Memorial Committee was formed by the citizens of Ephrata and they managed to raise $350,000 for the purchase, installation, and upkeep of the statue.
The Ephrata Borough Council gave the committee permission to put the statue at the beginning of the Major Richard D. Winters Memorial Trail, a rail-trail that was named in his honor.
The letter that Shelley and Gallagher sent in to the Lancaster stated that Winters “has come to represent good character, honor, integrity and leadership. … Where better to erect a replica of this monument than in the place Major Winters considered his hometown, and in his boyhood neighborhood?”
Tim Gray, the Chairman of the WWII Foundation which also orchestrated the Winters Statue in Normandy, also opposes the Ephrata installation.
Gray argued that Major Winters agreed to the Normandy monument upon the condition that there wouldn’t be a duplicate ever made of the statue.
Shelley and Gallagher dismissed the claim in their letter.
“Since that allegation arose, we have seen the documents concerning the statue that passed back and forth between the sculptor, the monument’s sponsor and the Winters family, and while a number of stipulations were made in writing, in none is there even the slightest mention that the Normandy monument was to be the one and only,” they state.
“Was the agreement verbal between the sponsor and Major Winters? Perhaps, but there is no way we can verify it.”
The community services committee for Ephrata Borough had discussed the issue on July 11th but they decided not to rescind the council’s permission to install the statue on borough property. The final decision was in the hands of the citizens group.
“After weighing all the factors, the committee has decided to proceed with the project,” Shelley and Gallagher wrote.
“It will be no simple task to raise the money for this worthy cause, but we feel it’s important to embrace Major Winters’ desire that the leadership monument represent more than just one man. It’s a sentiment that’s important to Americans who see this statue as a representation of their grandfather, father, uncle, son — or even of the person they want to be. Too few can travel to Normandy. We hope to make this symbol accessible to the people it matters to most.
“We firmly believe that this physical symbol to Major Winters’, and all leaders on D-Day’s, legacy of strength, integrity and character, deserves to be here in America, and should be shared with all Americans. That’s what we of the monument committee hope to achieve.”