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Illinois Woman Has 9/11 Memorial On Her Property. The Town Wants Her To Remove It.

By  Hank Berrien
9/11 memorial.
Photo by RoyalFive/Getty Images

A couple living in a suburb roughly 50 miles north of Chicago is battling an edict from their town telling them to remove a 9/11 memorial in their own yard.

Leigh Gardella-Wood and her husband bought the Spring Bluff Elementary School in Winthrop Harbor, which had been closed, in 2011; they live there with their children. The school’s property included a memorial boulder. NBC Chicago reported, “In June 2012, Girl Scout Kasha Strathman took the 9/11 memorial on as her Gold Award project, raising money for the plaque that now sits on the boulder, reading ‘We Shall Never Forget’ above a dedication to ‘those who serve.'”

Gardella-Wood acknowledged that before she and her husband bought the property the village asked that the boulder be removed. NBC Chicago reported, ‘She and her husband agreed and asked the village to move the boulder within the year and put the property back together, which local officials never did.”

The village was going to remove the boulder, but after a public outcry, they left it there. On Monday, Gardella-Wood said that last week the village board informed her the signage on the memorial was “obsolete” and she had ten days to remove it or else she could be fined as much as $500 per day. She stated, “I have never heard of a plaque being an issue. There are people who have plaques in their yard all over the place— it is not gaudy, it is not hurting anybody.” She added, “I think this is needed. We have a lot of people who are veterans. By the village wanting it gone, it hurts. People come here and reflect or to get away.”

A Local Veterans of Foreign Wars outlet said it would install the boulder on its property.

Gardella-Wood concluded, “I don’t know what to think because I don’t understand what they are thinking. I don’t understand how a community that is so close, that they would find a plaque or memorial obsolete. People worked really hard to have that put there. People died on 9/11. It’s not something we can just forget. It is coming up – how do you forget that?”

The Lake County News-Sun reported in mid-August that Winthrop Harbor, eager to portray itself as a tourist destination, was considering permitting a marijuana dispensary to be located in the town. Village Board Trustee Buddy Hargett stated, “That’s what we are trying to attract, is destination businesses.” Village Administrator Gregory Jackson stated that Winthrop Harbor could garner as much as 4% of marijuana sales in tax revenue, as opposed to the $1 in sales tax revenue the city receives for every $100 in taxable items that have been bought.

Mayor Michael Bruno added, “The importance of this legislation to our community does not escape us.” Police Chief Joel Brumlik said, “I don’t think it’ll be something we can’t deal with … Wisconsin’s going to come. The people will come.”

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