By Carol Flynn
On the top of Ridge on the west side of Lothair at 112th Street is a small triangle of land. Almost lost in history is the fact that this is the Memorial Triangle, dedicated in remembrance of the U.S. soldiers from Morgan Park who fought in World War I.
On Nov. 10, 1929, in observation of Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day, the cadets of the Morgan Park Military Academy planted a tree on the triangle as part of the memorial. A commemorative boulder had been placed on the site, and an inscription dedicating the tree was placed on the boulder. The boulder still stands on that triangle, and the tree on the triangle could be the tree the cadets planted almost 94 years ago.
This is just one of many military memorials found in Beverly/Morgan Park.
In the early 1990s, the Chicago Park District grouped together all the markers in Ridge Park, 9625 S. Longwood Dr., into a single memorial area. Six markers represent five wars: the Revolutionary War, the U.S. Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War II, and Operation Desert Shield/Operation Desert Storm.
Graver Park, 1513 W. 103rd St., has a World War I memorial, a boulder with a bronze inset, that was dedicated in 1931.
Kennedy Park, 11320 S. Western, has one of the first, perhaps the very first, Korean War monuments in the country. It was installed in 1988, and dignitaries from South Korea have attended memorial services at the site.
Not all of the memorials are from the distant past. Beverly Park, 2460 W. 102nd St., is the home of the most recently installed local memorial, dedicated to Connor T. Lowry, in 2013. Lowry, from Beverly/Morgan Park, served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and lost his life in Afghanistan in 2012.
While the Chicago Park District has always encouraged memorials and sculptures, the Forest Preserves of Cook County took an early stance for not including them in the preserves, believing the land should be saved for nature. One exception followed World War I when Dan Ryan, then president of the Cook County Board, allowed the Gold Star Mothers to place monuments in several of the preserves to honor the sons and daughters they lost in the war. Ryan had a soft spot for the Gold Star Mothers because his own sons served in the war. Fittingly, there was a Gold Star Mothers monument in Dan Ryan Woods at 87th Street and Western that was recently restored and moved near the Dan Ryan Woods visitor center on the north side of 87th Street.
The flagpole at Morgan Park High School, 1744 W. Pryor., is dedicated to Sergeant First Class Otha Davis, a long-time instructor for the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, who died unexpectedly in 2019.
Memorial Park in Blue Island, on 127th Street, started as the Blue Island Cemetery, and gravestones excavated and displayed at the park include some from veterans. This park also displays several pieces of military equipment, a World War I Studebaker field gun and an A-7D Corsair II light artillery bomber plane.
The local cemeteries contain monuments and graves of soldiers who died in service as well as graves of veterans. Mount Greenwood Cemetery, 111th and California, has identified and obtained markers for hundreds of U.S. Civil War veterans, and has a replica of a Civil War cannon on display. Information on sites to visit is available at the cemetery office.
Beverly Cemetery on Kedzie Avenue includes a veterans’ monument, and Lincoln Cemetery, the historic African American cemetery also on Kedzie Avenue, is the location of the grave of James Harvey, born a slave in 1845, who served in the U.S. Colored Troops of the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. At the time of his death in 1945 at the age of 100 years, he was the last member of the Colored Troops living in Illinois.
Of all the memorials to fallen soldiers, the most poignant are the soldier statues that mark the actual graves of young men who lost their lives in service, that are found in Mount Olivet Cemetery on 111th Street. Charles McAuliffe died in the Spanish American War, and next to his grave rests Corporal E. P. Carey, who died in World War I.
This list is just a starting point as there are undoubtedly more military monuments located on the Ridge. Touring these monuments would make for a worthy activity on Memorial Day, or any other day of the year.