- Project would draw attention to Clay County war veterans, says project organizer
An area resident has taken the initial steps to memorialize Charles B. Hall, a decorated World War II fighter pilot and Brazil native, with a park in downtown Brazil.
Mary I. Hendrickson met with a representative of U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar late last month to discuss the possibility of constructing a memorial park at the southwest corner of SR 59 and US 40. She was told the project could be funded through the Indiana Department of Transportation's Transportation Enhancement Awards program.
Hendrickson found Hall's story while conducting research at the Clay County Historical Society. Hall was one of the first 43 pilots assigned to combat duty with the Air Force's 99th Pursuit Squadron, the all black division also known as the Tuskegee Airmen. He was the first black pilot to earn official credit for shooting down an enemy plane.
Hendrickson met with Lane Ralph, a Deputy State Director for Senator Dick Lugar, when he visited the National Guard Armory in Brazil on Oct. 25. Hendrickson said Ralph indicated that INDOT funding would be available for the construction of a memorial to area war veterans, specifically Hall.
"Sen. Lugar says there is money for this," Hendrickson said.
Drawing attention to the contributions of Brazil-area war veterans is the primary motivation for the project, Hendrickson said. But she is aware of the other benefits that would stem from the construction of the memorial.
A vice president of Main Street Brazil, an organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the city's downtown area, she also hopes to improve the appearance of the U.S. 40 and SR 59 intersection and, ultimately, to bring tourism dollars into Brazil.
"One of the main incomes for your smaller towns is your tourists," she said.
Hendrickson has begun to work with Mayor Tom Arthur on the project, discussing planning contingencies and possible sources of funding.
"The mayor is helping us, but it's not political in any way, shape or form," she said. "It's just community minded people working in the interest of Brazil."
While Hendrickson is still in the early stages of planning the memorial, she said she hopes to arrive at a design for the project and beak ground by Jan. 1.
"We want the community's input," she said. "It's a vision at this point, but I know it can be done."