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DETERMINED TO SEE A MEMORIAL BUILT, A VETERAN KEEPS AT IT.

Byline: Amy Raisin Staff Writer

CANYON COUNTRY - It's easy to forgive World War II veteran Harry Gratz's skepticism when he is presented with the city's latest actions on a war veterans memorial to be erected in Newhall.

At 84, the former Army medic knows that time is no longer a luxury. It's important to Gratz, who still has shrapnel in his right leg from a wound suffered in Italy in 1943, to witness the tribute that he has pushed so hard for.

``This just eats at me like a cancer,'' Gratz said of the waiting. ``A monument is about the hard work, the sacrifice, the appreciation of the soldiers. A lot of vets are declining every day of the week. You never know what happens tomorrow.''

Gratz, a New York native who has lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for more than 20 years, has lost track of the letters he has written to politicians at the local, state and national level - but he said he will not rest until construction begins.

The city of Santa Clarita last year purchased a half-acre parcel of land in Newhall for $205,000 for the veterans monument - part of a $250,000 one-time grant from Gov. Gray Davis for the tribute.

Tom Reilly, park development administrator for the city, said a concept plan for the memorial plaza at Newhall Avenue and Market Street is complete and will be presented to the City Council for approval in January.

``We're making strides on this, but the process takes time,'' Reilly said. ``We have been looking at other (cities) that have done similar projects. Once the concept plan is approved we have to get a contract for a designer. Of course, there has to be money for that.''

After four public meetings last spring, what began as concept for a monument evolved into designs for a memorial plaza, where people in the community can gather.

Design costs, Reilly estimated, will run from $40,000 to $50,000. However, construction costs are expected to total as much as $700,000.

``We don't have construction money now,'' Reilly said. ``We'll need money through fund raising to get the actual memorial piece. The ball is definitely rolling.''

But Gratz, who lives with his wife of 50 years in a retirement community awash in American flags, said he is not satisfied with the latest plans.

``I'll believe it when I see it,'' he said. ``I started this ball rolling two years ago. It's been too long already, that there's no monument like this in Santa Clarita. You see all these letters I've written? I guess I'll just keep writing.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

(color) Harry Gratz, a former Army medic, has made it his mission to see construction begin on a World War II memorial in Newhall.

Tina Burch/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 24, 2002
Words:471
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