and Sailors' Monument
Public Square, Cleveland, Ohio
The historic term of our good
friend and member, Neil Evans, as President of the Soldiers and
Sailors Monument Commission has come to an end - giving us this
opportunity to reflect on the man and his service to our community.
There are two kinds of people in
the world. Those who see a problem and say: “Someone should do
something about that.” And then there are those, like Neil, who say:
“I can do something about that.” – And then begin to do it.
Cuyahoga County’s Soldiers and
Sailors Monument is a national treasure. It pays tribute to those
who served our nation from this County in The Civil War - and
through its majesty all those who served in any of our country’s
armed conflicts. Over its 100 years, due the natural aging process
and neglect, it had become a run down, dark and dirty place.
It needed a degree of attention it
had not received since it had been built in 1894. Every feature of
the monument needed serious help, including its crumbing
infrastructure, statuary, stained glass, walls of names, floors,
ceilings, marble, lighting, heating and plumbing.
Restoring it to its former glory
would not be easy, if it could be done at all. It would require: the
political skills of a Lincoln, working with federal, state, county
and city officials, as well as community leaders and many
volunteers; the artistic talents needed to work with architects,
archaeologists, artisans in marble, stained glass and colors, and
the fundraising ability of Jesse James. The project would take
millions, collected from many sources over several years to cover
the costs of the renovations.
It also took attention to items
great and small. I think Neil knows every grain in every piece of
marble there, the texture of its wood, the hue and the nuance of
every color, the essence of its lighting and the history of every
fixture, and the story behind every depicted scene. He may even know
all 10,000 plus names on its hallowed walls.
accepts thanks from the CCWRT at its September 2011 meeting
Neil - who undoubtedly worked with
a vision in his head of what the monument would be again - was not
only the man for this enormous job but also the only man for it. He,
in addition to the capabilities already noted, is also a nice guy,
one with a great love of the community and those who served our
country so well. All of that showed in his every action.
He was also and I say this with
great respect my friend, using the words of another great American
man of letters (and music) - Elvis Presley: Neil - “You ain’t nothin
but a Hound Dog!”
It is unlikely that there is any
organization or person that Neil hasn’t hounded for money or other
support for the monument over the years - in many speeches, talks,
presentations and just individual conversations. It never felt
right, if you talked to Neil, if you didn’t get asked for money or
some service he needed.
He unashamedly brought the needs of
the monument to the community - hounding it into doing the right
thing - and for that, the people of Cuyahoga County and the nation
owe him its gratitude.
What Neil has accomplished with his
work in renewing the monument, may also be seen one day as one of
the impetus’ for a renewal of Cuyahoga County itself - what a
wonderful example Neil has set for a renewal of structure and of
And that’s not just me and our
members saying that: Neil - here are the words of noted historian,
and renowned Lincoln scholar, Harold Holzer:
In my 35 years of work in the
Lincoln and Civil War fields, I've rarely met a man as dedicated,
passionate, knowledgeable, and determined as Neil Evans.
Fortunately for your community, and everyone interested in
history, those qualities were applied with selfless energy to the
gloriously renewed Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Not only does
that landmark symbolize our appreciation for the sacrifices our
uniformed heroes made to preserve the Union and end
slavery--magnificently restored for a new generation of citizens
it will always stand too for the commitment of Neil Evans!
What would the monument’s sculptor,
Levi Scofield, and the artist, Lewis Tiffany, say? "Thank you Neil,
for preserving our work - it never looked so good."
What would those who have their
names on the walls and their families say? "Thank you Neil for
giving life to the monument again, recognizing our sacrifices so
And what would Abraham Lincoln, who
is so well depicted within the monument, say? Well, I think he had
people like Neil in mind when he said:
I like to see a man proud of
the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that the
place may be proud of him.
Neil you are now a legend - we are
very proud of you and all you’ve done - thank you, thank you, thank