The plaque honoring veterans of World War I and World War II was stolen during the night on May 14.
The 3 foot by 2 foot plaque dates back to the 1940s, and was installed when the field was built.
A report from officer Ash Moore from the Port Townsend Police Department stated that there were no leads or suspects in the case, as there are no cameras near that area of the field.
“I don’t think there’s much hope of getting it back,” said Matt Tyler, director of the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation, who reported the theft. “Our assumption is that it was stolen for the bronze, it would be immediately melted down.”
Construction began on Memorial Athletic Field in 1946. According to old Leader articles, by March of 1947 a grant was approved for the project and by September of 1947, the lights and bleachers were added and the first game played on the field was a Port Townsend High School vs. Port Angeles High School football game, which Port Townsend won 7-0.
The plaque was dedicated on May 21, 1948. It contained the names of World War I and II veterans that the field was built to honor.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Tyler said. “The plaque has such a deep historical, emotional and social importance as an artifact to the experience that veterans had during those wars, the sacrifices they made and the community that came together to build this facility as a part of the recovery from those wars.”
Jefferson County Parks and Recreation is planning to work with the Jefferson County Historical Society on drafting up a design for a replacement plaque, Tyler said. But the cost will be too much for the county to cover on its own.
“Our dream is to rebuild the plaque, reinstall it and have a rededication ceremony,” he said. “It’s a chance to make something good out of something bad. We’re asking for support and ideas from the community to achieve this goal. We don’t have the resources to do it ourselves, but we want to be the contact point for this to happen.”
Pete and Cathy Langley, who own the Port Townsend Foundry, said theft of bronze in Port Townsend is not unusual.
Just two weeks ago, the plaque from the Marvin G. Shields memorial on Sims Way was stolen.
Bronze is worth about a dollar a pound, Cathy Langley said. To make a new plaque, it would cost about $11,000. But a thief might only make about $50 off of the plaque once they have melted it down and sold it as scrap.
Most foundries don’t accept scrap metal like that, Pete Langley said.
“Even the stuff that we take in that’s recyclable, we send back to a refinery in Ohio where it is turned into alloy,” he said.
But there are some small operations that don’t follow the rules, he said.
“The scrap laws should be much more intense,” he said. “There should be a 30-day waiting period to get paid. That would solve a lot of issues.”
Langley estimates that the Memorial Field plaque and the Marvin G. Shields plaque may have been stolen by the same person or group of people and they might be gathering a load of stolen bronze to then sell all at once.
Langley said they are willing to work with both the American Legion and county on creating and installing new plaques.
“As a community we have a responsibility to tell these people that they’re not going to win,” Langley said.
Tyler said he hopes to work with the Jefferson County Historical Society to draw up a design, get a cost estimate and then employ a local tradesperson to make the plaque.
For Tyler, the loss of the plaque at Memorial Field was a destruction of the reason the field was created to begin with: as a memorial for the sacrifice the veterans made.
“It really hit me emotionally,” he said. “Part of the town’s recovery from these two wars was to get together and play. The field has been in use since it was built and the plaque has sat there as a monument to those veterans who gave everything.”
The two cannons at the entrance of Memorial Field list the names alphabetically of local men who went to war, including:
World War I:
1917 - 1918
James A. Anderson, Fred W. Anderson, John W. Anderson, Edwin A. Bartlett, George W. Chadwick and Allen W. Clements, Richard C. Hill, John H. Reczuck, Louie Kunz, Louis P. Mutty, Samuel P. Putnam and Frances C. Voderburg.
[These names are also on the memorial plaque at the Jefferson County Courthouse]
World War II:
1941 - 1945
Woodrow Andrus, Charles F. Berkshier, Joseph Burton Bowman, James Broshear, Homer Cameron, Marvin Cays, Jack Currie, Morris Eldridge, Robert C. Ely, Howell Emley, Melvin E. Glen, John M. Gray, James Hulburt, Howard Johnston, Ralph H. Kiel, Thomas A. Maraldo, Bruce Matheson, Jr., Jack L. McInnes, William H. McNeil, Orivel K. Morris, John J. Odell Jr., Edward L. Paddock, Richard L. Pierson, Joseph A. Pisczsek, LeRoy C. Porter, William H. Poston, Arthur C. Ramsdell, Luz G. Rogers, Merritt S. Sanders, Chester A. Smith, Donald Snook, David H. Strong, Theodore A. Stuart, David H. Swartz, Harry Fredrick Valliere Jr., Walter Wills, Lonnie B. Wimberly.
To learn more, or to offer support, contact Matt Tyler at Jefferson County Public Works: 360-385-9129.