Corona Historic Preservation Society (CHPS) is seeking the community’s assistance to preserve another piece of Corona history, the Veterans Memorial Wall at Butterfield Park!
In August of 1968, seven of Corona’s very own had been killed in the Vietnam War. That same year, Rena Parker, Corona’s first female mayor, sought to establish a 20-acre memorial section of the new Butterfield Stage Park with the center piece being a memorial wall. A wall design was chosen on Oct. 3, 1969 and council approval was given on Dec. 17, 1969. The wall was designed by the Planning Department’s draftsman, Tim Bisel and it was to be constructed out of adobe with three arches – the center arch featuring a bell.
The memorial wall was dedicated on Memorial Day 1969 by a beaming Rena Parker. She had worked tirelessly to raise money for the wall and to acquire an appropriate bell. Sadly, due to the political climate at the time, the wall was vandalized shortly after its dedication, its precious bell was stolen, and its bronze plaques were pried off. The wall was used for Memorial Day celebrations for a few more years, however, because of vandalism and the unpopularity of the Vietnam War the wall was left to deteriorate as it was abandoned and eventually forgotten.
Further destruction of the wall occurred, due to the use of unsealed adobe blocks and the watering of the grass around the wall over the years. The wall has been slowly worn away to its current condition, with the reflecting bench, and most of the original adobe exterior gone. The structure is being held together by the mortar and rebar, and the hole remains where Rena’s bell was once attached.
In October of 2016, CHPS presented the history of the wall and their plan for restoration of the forgotten memorial to the City of Corona’s Infrastructure Committee, where it was warmly received. After further meetings with the City’s Maintenance Services Department and receiving the City’s approval, CHPS announced their intention to preserve and celebrate this part of Corona History by preserving/rebuilding this wall for future generations.
CHPS has started the process of renovation by collaborating with City Staff. So far the City’s Maintenance Services Department has been able to change the irrigation, excavate around the wall to reduce moisture, and remove the grass and excess dirt. The remainder of CHPS’s plans include installing decorative fencing; stabilizing it by rebuilding parts of the wall; sealing the wall to prevent future damage; installing historic marker; and most importantly, acquiring a bell to install in remembrance of Rena Parker, Corona’s first female Mayor and Champion for the wall.
The CHPS is assuming a budget of $40,000 for the complete renovation of the Veteran’s Memorial Wall. Corona’s Mayor Dick Haley pledged the first $1,000 to start the restoration process and the CHPS is asking the community to join in saving this piece of history by buying a brick to rebuild this Vietnam era memorial. Bricks are a $100 each and all donations are tax-deductible; they can be purchased online or by mailing a check to the address listed at the bottom of this article. All donors will be acknowledged on the historic marker web page that will be set up for this project.
The wall will once again serve as a tribute to the fine men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice, especially Corona’s nine young men who served in Vietnam and ultimately lost their lives: Marine Corps Private First Class, Robert Emmett Jones, 19; Army Private First Class Charles Gordon Woods, 20; Marine Corps Lance Corporal Miguel Zaragoza Contreras, 22; Army Private First Class Frank Daniel Leal, 21; Army Private First Class Larry J Orosco, 19; Army Corporal Archie James Roberts Jr, 21; Army Staff Sergeant Robert Lee Wilkes, 37; Marine Corps Private First Class Joseph Trejo Jr, 21; and Army First Class Edward Gerard Mathern, 20.
The CHPS was founded in 1983 and is dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of Corona’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, and sites. CHPS seeks to educate citizens of all ages about Corona’s history, historic resources and to enhance historic preservation within the City of Corona. For additional information about the Corona Historic Preservation Society please go to www.corona-history.org
C/O Memorial Wall Fund
Corona Historic Preservation Society
P.O. Box 2904
Corona, CA 92878-2904
Make checks payable to “Corona Historic Preservation Society”