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By Ben Meyerson
After 18 months of restoration, Scoville Park's World War I memorial was unveiled Sunday afternoon much as it was restored: slowly, and with great difficulty.
When it came time to reveal the restored monument to the crowd of hundreds gathered for the monument's rededication, the Park District of Oak Park's employees and volunteers struggled to remove the makeshift curtain — a green parachute, purchased from Army-Navy Surplus on Madison Street in Forest Park.
But as children giggled in the background, the parachute was pulled off, bit by bit, revealing the restored majesty of the "Peace Triumphant" memorial.
In the audience were veterans of many wars from many branches of the military, as well as employees of Hines Veterans' Hospital in Maywood and descendants of those named on the memorial.
State Sen. Don Harmon, a lifelong Oak Parker, told the crowd that the monument's meaning has changed for him over the years.
"When I was a boy, I thought this was a monument to war," Harmon said. "Now that I'm an adult, I fully realize this is a monument to peace."
Oak Park Village President David Pope hit on a similar message.
"The name 'Peace Triumphant' was originally retrospective, looking back," Pope said. "But now, looking forward, it's prospective, seeing what we can do going forward."
But Sharon Helman, Hines' director, urged people not to forget the veterans who served the United States, but weren't listed on any memorials yet.
"These aren't just names — these are people who walk through the hallways at Hines," Helman said. "This statue is called 'Peace Triumphant,' but there are after effects of that peace."
Annette Amelkovich, another lifelong Oak Parker at 49, said she's played on the statue as an adult and as a kid. As she grew older, though, the statue grew increasingly important to her.
"As a kid, I didn't think anything of it, other than there's a statue that we can play on," Amelkovich said. "It carries more meaning for me as an adult, since peace is a part of my daily regime ... In my lifetime, I don't think I'm going to see this again — to see people paying tribute to the whole scenario of peace."