From left to right are the various VFW dignitaries from the state and local posts. B.J. Lawrence is to the left of the wreath. Past the wreath is Judy Baca, founder and executive director of SPARC; Carlos Rogel, SPARC project manager for the Wall; Leslie Himes, friend of the muralist Stewart;Deborah Padilla, SPARC executive director; Taylor Bazley, Venice Deputy; Pete Galindo, SPARC assistant director, and George Francisco, president of the Venice Chamber of Commerce. Francisco opened the ceremonies.
“The Wall is a Living Memory,” said Carlos Rogel, Wall project manager for SPARC, at the Wall ceremonies held Wednesday in front of the POW/MIA Vietnam Memorial Wall on Pacific Ave in Venice.
“We want to restore dignity to this wall … sometimes it is the only place these names are remembered … it should be relevant not only to family members but to future generations.”
B.J. Lawrence, national junior vice commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, several VFW members from state and local VFW Posts, a friend of the muralist joined Venice Chamber of Commerce and the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) at a special ceremony to kick-off the restoration of the POW/MIA Vietnam War Memorial Wall on Pacific Ave in Venice.
B.J. Lawrence gave the commemorative talk before officiating the laying of a wreath at the wall.
It was last year, just before Memorial Day, the wall was graffitied, and when many well-meaning people tried to remove the graffiti, they removed names. The Wall had to be restored.
SPARC stepped up
SPARC stepped up and said they would restore the mural. They since have done extensive research to make sure the names are all there and in the right places.
Judy Baca, founder of SPARC, said they would keep a “digital copy” so that it would be fixable from now on. She said she thought the wall would be moved or in jeopardy within the next five years because the property where it is located is to be developed.
“It is planned that the really big ceremony will be this coming Memorial Day when the wall is completely restored,” said Taylor Bazley, Venice deputy for Councilman Mike Bonin.
Peter Charles Stewart did the Wall in 1994
The 2073 names were painted on the black painted surface of a masonry wall on Pacific Ave in Venice in 1994 by Peter Charles Stewart who had served as a naval ordinance man during Vietnam. Leslie Himes, who was there to speak, helped Stewart collect the names from the Department of Defense.
“Peter slept in his van and had a parrot during this time,” Himes said. “We made friends with Jean and Charlie Raye, whose son’s name in on the wall. Jean was instrumental in starting the Legacy of Families here. Peter finished the wall in 1994 and died in 1996. Peter would be proud today.”
Bazley wants to anti-graffiti paint all murals
Taylor Bazley, Venice Deputy for Mike Bonin, said they were going to put a coating on the mural to prevent graffiti. Whether it is the type of coating that won’t allow paint to adhere or the type that can be washed off was not discussed. Bazley did say he was working on getting all the murals coated to prevent this.
B.J. Lawrence spoke of the desecration of monuments and how sad and disrespectful it was for those who served.
Leslie Himes talked about Peter Charles Stewart and his effort to do the wall.
Carlos Rogel, Wall project manager for SPARC, indicated it was a special project for him. He said he had people who would stop by the wall when he was there and tell him that “that name up there is a member of my family.” To Rogel it is a living memory.