Veterans memorial losing the war against vandalism

April 09, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

On Sept. 5, 1990, Milton F. Zientek's hard work began to pay off. Months of soliciting donations from area businesses had raised $10,000 for his American Legion post -- enough to build a veterans memorial complete with a 30-foot flag pole in Curtis Bay.

But 3 1/2 years later, the small plot of land at Church Street and Fairhaven Avenue has yet to be fully transformed. Mr. Zientek, 69, a World War II veteran, blames area youths for vandalizing and stealing what volunteers have painstakingly worked to build.

Ever since bulldozers dug a foundation for an 8-foot-tall pillar, vandals have broken and stolen pieces of marble and chipped away at a concrete eagle on top. Recently, the 30-foot aluminum flag pole was stolen.

"I had a phone call at my house," Mr. Zientek recalls. "The guy said, 'Milton, your flag pole is gone.' I said, 'No, you mean the flag.' I came out to look, and I said, 'Oh my God, it's gone.' "

The pole cost American Legion Post 187 more than $650, not including $1,000 for the foundation.

"It took eight people to put the flag pole up," Mr. Zientek said. "They really worked at it. I would like to say to the people who took it that if you aren't going to return it, put it to good use. Don't cut it up for scrap. It cost too much."

The memorial, dedicated to veterans of all wars, consists of a concrete pillar fitted with slabs of marble and topped with the concrete eagle painted gold. Behind the pillar are three flag poles. The two smaller ones were welded to the foundation; the vTC larger one was not.

That pole was stolen early March 18. Mr. Zientek said the post will have to dip into its dwindling funds to buy a new pole.

Before the pole was stolen, volunteers twice replaced marble slabs that were broken or stolen.

Mr. Zientek, who runs a family hardware store on nearby Patapsco Avenue and has lived in Curtis Bay all his life, said the post's 240 members decided to build the memorial on the property, site of the former Elementary School 208, "to give something back to the community."

"I should have had this [project] done a couple of years ago," Mr. Zientek said. "But we've spent all of our time fixing it. . . . I don't

know what to think. It's sort of disgusting when you think about it. You try to do something nice for the community. It's a shame. We felt that Curtis Bay really should have something."

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