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Indiana County vets remembered with planned memorial

The idea of creating a memorial to honor Indiana County's roughly 2,800 Civil War veterans was first proposed in the 1880s by members of the Grand Army of the Republic veterans group. That effort fell short of its goal, but Indiana Civil War reenactor Tim Nupp is among those determined to finally see a fitting memorial in place by next year — in time to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war.

Nupp serves as chairperson of the Indiana County Civil War Memorial Committee, overseeing an $80,000 project to place a Civil War soldier statue on the front lawn of the Silas M. Clark House in Indiana. The location is appropriate, as the house once served as a meeting hall for former GAR Post 28.

The house currently is home to the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County, which, together with the Indiana County Tourist Bureau, is supporting the current memorial project initiated by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, John T. Crawford Camp No. 43

"I first approached the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War to be the administrator of the memorial project," Nupp, 41, said. "Once organization of the memorial committee was complete, we have held regular meetings managing this project from historical content, supervision of the building of the memorial, to fundraising for the memorial itself."

The SUVCW is a patriotic and educational organization incorporated by an act of Congress in 1954. "We put on school presentations and provide grave rededication services for Civil War veterans," Nupp explained. "Basically, we perpetuate the memory of the Grand Army of the Republic. There are different levels of membership, with full membership being people with lineage to Civil War veterans."

Aside from raising the necessary funds, Nupp said the biggest challenge of the memorial project was to find a pose for the statue that would sum up the lives of the county's Civil War veterans, who had different life experiences and economic backgrounds.

"A statue or memorial is like a photograph in a scrapbook — a picture of a specific moment in time," Nupp said. "If one has many statues, many specific images can tell a story. We do not have the luxury of many statues. Indiana will only get one chance to tell the story of these veterans. So, the thoughtful, reflective, retrospective pose of a soldier at meditation is the common link that binds the returning veterans' thoughts."

Called "Rest on Arms," the pose selected for the statue depicts a Union private in a "non-warrior position," resting both hands on the stock of his rifle.

John McCombie, a sculptor and Vietnam veteran who resides in Rayne Township, will create the life-size bronze statue if enough funds are raised. He unveiled a maquette, or scale replica, of the memorial in July.

"Tim inspired me to get the juices flowing and get excited about it," McCombie, 63, said of the project. "I learned more about the Civil War, and that got me more excited about the memorial. My feelings are it's moving, and I made it that way. If we move on to the big one it will be life-size, and it will be more dramatic."

McCombie said he spent a couple months creating the replica, and he noted forming the life-size statue will be labor-intensive, especially in the details.

"A memorial will be a firm reminder for the reason for (the Civil War)," McCombie said. "Children can ask questions about the Civil War, and the relatives of the veterans can talk about it."

"As the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War approaches, the timeliness of this project is paramount," according to a Rest on Arms press release issued by the memorial committee. During that conflict, local veterans "sacrificed and put their lives on hold so that our Union could be preserved. In the process, the abolition of slavery occurred — a grand undertaking by anyone's standards."

The soldier depicted in the memorial symbolizes all that he and others went through during the war, according to Chris Catalfamo, who serves on the memorial committee.

"It was not a soldier statue meant to highlight the details of the soldier's accoutrements," said Catalfamo, 57, of Indiana. "This was a spiritual and very moving modern statue of a Civil War soldier worn out by war — very unique and one of a kind. The sacrifice, ... the rigors of the march, the wounded and the ill, the loss of friends, brothers, cousins, even fathers, in combat and in camp. He is the universal soldier, and we are the ones who sent him to the war.

"Civil War soldiers are real people to us who saved the Union, and we never forget their sacrifice in one of the bloodiest wars for freedom of all times."

"I believe Rest on Arms should be Indiana County's big Civil War Sesquicentennial project," Catalfamo added. "We want to involve everyone and also document the effort to build the statue. We hope to use Indiana County barn stones as the base."

Nupp indicated he has found a donor willing to provide the needed stones. A base of 34 stones is planned, symbolizing the 24 townships and 10 boroughs that existed in Indiana County in 1871, shortly after the Civil War.

Different levels of support have been suggested for those wanting to donate to the memorial project. Those donating $40 or more will be recognized in a program to be issued at the statue's dedication. Higher-level donations will qualify for a memorial print or replica statuette.

For more information on the memorial project, visit www.visitindianacountypa.org .

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