Women’s Legacy Memorial Completed in Downtown Kokomo
Writer / Julie Yates
Photographer / Jason Graves
Late this summer, Jerry B. Paul, Howard County Veterans Memorial Corporation president, finally saw the completion of a project that he and the board of directors of the HCVMC spent the last five years tirelessly working on. The Women’s Legacy Memorial, which honors all women but has a special emphasis on women who serve in the military forces, was dedicated on August 6, 2021.
Located on the northeast corner of the Howard County Courthouse, the stately bronze sculptures will leave a lasting legacy and beautify the area for years to come.
The memorial was designed by Mr. Paul and forged by world-class sculptor Benjamin Matthew Victor. Victor, who has a studio in Boise, Idaho, is the only living artist to have three statues in National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., at the United States Capitol building. Paul’s search for an artist who could convey his vision led him to contact and ultimately become acquainted with Victor.
“I think that historically we have done a horrible job of honoring women in this country,” Paul says. “Most statues honoring women show them as sort of mythical beings, with a garland in their hair while they play a flute. I wanted to design a monument that would empower women. People ask, ‘Why would a man do this?’ I was raised by a single mom and I know that’s the hardest job there is. I wanted to design a monument that represents the idea that no matter what a woman does for work, or who she is, she is going to be one of these women. Some women have said to me, ‘But I never worked. I stayed home and raised kids.’ Well, to me, parenting is one of the hardest careers you’ll ever have.”
The monument depicts three life-sized sculptures of women on top of limestone and marble bases that are inscribed with the words “Duty”, “Faith” and “Honor.” One of the figures is the likeness of Shawna Rochelle Kimbrell, a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. She was born in Lafayette, Indiana, and is the first African-American female fighter pilot in the history of the Air Force. The statue represents all women of color. The classic icon, Rosie the Riveter, represents all working women, past and present. A third figure, “The Kneeling Soldier”, is posed in the front to emphasize the service and sacrifice made to our country.
“To me, the statue of Kimbrell signifies breaking through two glass ceilings, one of color and one of gender,” Paul says. “She is not only a woman, but a strong woman of color. Rosie the Riveter characterizes all women who work, including mothers who raise children. The Kneeling Soldier’s prosthetic leg, hand on heart, bowed head, and musket symbolize a history of service and sacrifice.”
Paul was also the driving force behind building and erecting the Blue and Gold Star Family Memorial located next to the Howard County Veterans Memorial. In 2009 and 2010 he researched bronze sculptors. Victor was selected as the sculptor for the Blue and Gold Star Family Memorial project.
“Back then I narrowed my search to a dozen sculptors and then down to six,” Paul says. “At that point, I started calling people and Ben was the only one who answered the phone himself – not an agent. He said, ‘My work speaks for itself.’ He is so humble, yet he is the youngest in history to have so many statues in Statuary Hall in Washington D.C.”
Paul himself has a lot to be proud of. He was a United States Army Specialist 5th Class in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971. He received a medal for meritorious achievement while serving as a crew chief on a Dustoff helicopter. To complete the recent memorial, the HCVMC raised hundreds of thousands of dollars by holding events and securing community donations from sources such as individual donors, government agencies and veterans organizations.
“If you factor in donated time and materials plus money raised, the end cost was around $500,000,” Paul says. “We traveled to gun shows, went to festivals and put the word out. Half Moon Restaurant and Brewery in Kokomo was a big supporter and we held multiple fundraisers there. I want women to come up and see this monument. There’s nothing like it in Indiana and possibly the entire country.”
Visit the Women’s Legacy Memorial on the northeast corner of the Howard County Courthouse in Kokomo at Walnut and Main Streets.