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Road markers to honor W.Va. veterans

May 20, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Motorists driving past the two West Virginia welcome centers along Interstate 81 will see new roadside markers commemorating West Virginia veterans.

A dedication ceremony for the West Virginia Veterans Memorial Freeway markers will be today - Armed Forces Day - at 1 p.m. at the West Virginia northbound I-81 Welcome Center near Inwood, W.Va., the site of one of the markers.

The second marker is at the welcome center in Falling Waters, W.Va.

The large stone memorials are the result of a three-year effort by Del. Vicki Douglas, D-Berkeley, and Korean War veteran Norman Ceravalo of Falling Waters to rename the West Virginia portion of I-81 the West Virginia Veterans Memorial Freeway.

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"I've been married to this thing since 1999," Ceravalo said. "It's been a long haul."

About 80 organizations, businesses and individuals contributed to the memorial marker project, Ceravalo said.

In 1999, Ceravalo was asked by AMVETS Post 38 in Falling Waters, W.Va., of which he is a member, to rename the interstate. Ceravalo was previously a member of the American Legion post in Williamsport and was involved efforts to get Interstate 81 in Maryland renamed Maryland Veterans Memorial Highway.

Ceravalo wrote to Douglas asking for her assistance. In fall 1999, the West Virginia Legislature voted in favor of the new name.

The Department of Highways offered to place its signature green signs with the new name along the interstate, but Ceravalo and Douglas wanted something more special.

"Our veterans here in West Virginia are extremely loyal, and the state has the highest per capita veteran population (in the country). We thought they deserved better than that," Ceravalo said.

They set out to find the money, material and manpower to create the 6-foot high, 24-foot long stone markers.

Douglas requested financial assistance from then-Gov. Gaston Caperton, who supplied $6,000 in seed money.

Architect Robert Eckels of Martinsburg designed the markers with the intent of using native materials. Stone was taken from a barn foundation in Falling Waters, and stone mason Dave Zink of Martinsburg volunteered to construct the markers.

The largest expense was for the West Virginia State Seals and Department of Veterans Affairs Seals inset into the stones. They are 30 inches in diameter and cost $1,500 each. The lettering cost about $2,000, Ceravalo said.

He said the two memorial markers cost a total of about $18,000.

Spotlights that will illuminate the markers have yet to be installed.

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