Sunday, January 17, 2021
Sparta Rotary Club member Toni Polkoski (right) and Sparta High School volunteer Karson Knoll (left) work on the footings of a new World War II memorial that is being erected in Sparta’s Blyton Memorial Park. The monument, which is expected to be completed by Memorial Day, will be engraved with the names of more than 600 area World War II veterans. Herald photo by J.P. Schaller.

Blyton Park WWII Memorial nears completion

New monument expected to be finished by Memorial Day

A new World War II memorial in Sparta’s Blyton Park is expected to be completed by Memorial Day,

The Sparta Rotary Club project, spearheaded by Rotarian Tony Polkoski, is moving along nicely thanks in part to some nice spring weather.

Polkoski and Sparta High School student volunteer Karson Knoll poured the concrete footings for the large memorial Wednesday morning.

According to Polkoski, who came up with the idea, the project grew by leaps and bounds once it was announced to the public.

He said the memorial will contain the names of area World War II veterans – both living and deceased – to honor their service to our country.

“We put out a call to the community to get a list of World War II veterans and the project really grew,” offered Polkoski. “We started out with 250 names, then we got another 100 and another 100.”

By the time the dust cleared, the Rotary Club had accumulated more than 600 veterans’ names.

All 600-plus will have their names engraved on the memorial, and Polkoski said the club is leaving room for 100 or so more names if anyone was left out.

“All of the names are being engraved right now,” he said.

“We plan to have it set by Memorial Day,” continued Polkoski. “We were going to have a ceremony along with the Memorial Day parade, but with what is going on (with the COVID-19 shutdown) now, that’s all up in the air. We will be having a ceremony at a later date.”

Like many Sparta Rotary undertakings, the World War II memorial is a volunteer-driven project.

In addition to Polkoski and Knoll, club member Brian Kent, his son, Nick, and Nick’s friend, Tye Klass, helped construct the footings before Tuesday to get things ready for the Wednesday pour.

Nick Kent and Tye Klass are also Sparta High School volunteers.

The project is being financed with donations from the community and money raised at Sparta Rotary fundraisers, including a 1940s dance held at Jake’s Northwoods late last year.

“The 40s dance did really well. It was a lot of fun, too,” said Polkoski. “People came dressed up in their 1940s garb.”

Blyton Park is named in honor of William H. Blyton.

A plaque placed in the park during a 1981 dedication ceremony said Blyton was a “Soldier, patriot and for more than 55 years clerk of the Village and City of Sparta.”

Blyton Park contains several monuments and memorials honoring veterans of the Civil War, Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm.

Other monuments include one for the USS Maine, another erected in memory of our nations defenders and one honoring Sparta’s Brig. General Donald P. Radde of the 32nd Infantry Division in World War II.

Polkoski, however, felt more of our area’s war heroes should be honored as well.

“It’s a memorial park, but it doesn’t represent all of the veterans who defended our freedoms,” he said. “This memorial will just have the names of World War II veterans, and I’m hoping someday we can have memorials honoring our World War I and Korean War veterans.”

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