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American Legion plans Memorial Wall renovation

Jeff Miller
The Express
Common Soldier At Guard, which once stood bravely near the graves of Dansville's deceased veterans in Greenmount Cemetery, is now housed in the Daniel Goho American Legion Post. If the Legion makes its fundraising goal, the Union Soldier will be the centerpiece of a new Legion display honoring its fallen active-duty service men and women.

DANSVILLE — In an effort to better honor Dansville’s soldiers who had fallen in active duty, Dansville’s Daniel Goho American Legion Post #87 is working on revamping its memorial wall, hopefully by Memorial Day 2021.

“We have 62 deceased Dansvillites on the wall,” Dan Beiswenger, Memorial Wall project committee co-chair said. “When you look through it, you see the same last names that you see all over Dansville.”

Tom Depuy, who co-chairs the project committee with Beiswenger, has his uncle who died during World War II, Lt. James E. DePuy, on the wall.

“Dansville has always answered the call,” Beiswenger said. “And this wall is such a special place. When it was put up, I think it was made to look really special. But over the years, it’s kind of blended into the scenery. You can walk in and not even know it’s there.”

The plan is to revamp the entire foyer in the main entrance, which divides the basement bar with the upstairs dining hall. The focus will be to reimage, rematt and reframe the photos of Dansville’s deceased in protective UV glass, put up a mahogany wall and place up lighting which, Beiswenger said, he hopes would be lit in such a way so that those who are walking by could see the memorial from outside.

“I look at the pictures and look at the names and look at the faces, and each one has a really big story behind them,” he said.

But the centerpiece to the wall will be the “Common Soldier At Guard” copper statue that was placed at Greenmount Cemetery by the local Grand Army of the Republic chapter and had stood guard over the deceased veterans' graves for likely more than 100 years.

But due to a deteriorating condition and vandalism, the Legion recently removed the statue from the cemetery, restored it and stood him inside the bar area along with a collection of many other wartime artifacts and awards. When the memorial wall is finished, the statue will be brought up to the foyer where he can remain out of the elements and kept safe from vandalism, yet still stand guard over Dansville’s deceased active-duty veterans.

The six-foot tall molded copper statue of the Union Army foot soldier was designed by W.H. Mullins, and was likely inspired by another statue — a bronze casting by Casper Buberl in 1891 for the 111th New York Infantry Monument at Gettysburg Battlefield. The exact date of Dansville’s statue is unknown, but is likely sometime around 1900. The price for the statue at that time would have been a little more than $300. Today, the statue is appraised at $50,000.

In the coming months, when COVID-19 isn’t disrupting many people’s paychecks, the Legion will restart its fundraising campaign for the memorial wall renovation. About one third of its $60,000 goal has been raised so far.

“It’s not just The American Legion,” Beiswenger said. “It’s Dansville. It’s the people from Dansville that are up on that wall.”

In addition to the wall and statue, the Legion will also revamp the foyer’s electric, ventilation, stairwell, ceiling, floors and doors. The Daniel Goho American Legion Post #87 turned 101 years old on July 7.

Common Soldier At Guard, which once stood bravely near the graves of Dansville's deceased veterans in Greenmount Cemetery, is now housed in the Daniel Goho American Legion Post. If the Legion makes its fundraising goal, the Union Soldier will be the centerpiece of a new Legion display honoring its fallen active-duty service men and women.