By Richard Lawlor
The Beachcomber, Thursday, July 10, 1986
HAMPTON BEACH -- This past Independence Day will long be remembered as the day the world stood still to celebrate The Statue of Liberty. Crowds flocked to her to be part of "Lady Liberty's" party. All eyes seemed to be focused on her history.
On Hampton Beach this past 4th, another "lady" stood — not in the limelight but the sunlight. crowds flocked, too, but in this case, simply past her. Some eyes may have focused on "the lady" but it seems safe to say that few -- if any -- celebrated her history.
The following is for those who perhaps didn't remember or just didn't know.
She's Having A Birthday, too
Next year the Marine Memorial lady will be 30 years old. In May of 1957, when she was dedicated, the dream of one New Hampshire man was also realized.
William E. Downs of Manchester is the man whose concept became a reality and whose reality became a lasting memorial. His dream was to memorialize all New Hampshire sons and daughters lost or buried at sea in defense of their country.
Two hundred and forty eight names are listed on The Marine Memorial.
It was his son, William D. Downs, that the senior Downs set out originally to honor.
After his son was buried at sea in 1945, Downs was surprised to learn that the federal government could not -— or would not -— furnish a grave marker to honor his son's life and death. His anger and despair intensified when he recognized the fact that he was not alone in this inability to commemorate a lost loved one.
'No' From Washington
'Yes' From N.H.
The federal route was the first route that Downs would take. He petitioned the powers in Washington to create such a monument in the nation's capital. No such monument could or would be built, was the word from the District of Columbia.
This did not stop Downs. He took his case to the state of New Hampshire and in 1950, he received the support of then-Governor Sherman Adams. A New Hampshire Marine Memorial Commission was formed with Downs himself the chairman.
For four years, the commission studied possible locations, agreeing only that it should be located somewhere along New Hampshire's 18 miles of Seacoast. The commission came forward with two recommendations, both in Rye.
The first proposed site was at Pulpit Rock at Rye Beach. It was not considered for long, however, when it became known that the land was involved in litigation.
The second parcel reviewed was at Ragged Neck at Rye Harbor. The proposal was rejected eventually because the site, a state park, would have meant that visitors to the memorial would have to pay an admission charge.
Hampton Beach Chosen
Under the former Governor Hugh Gregg, the commission chose a plot of land at Hampton Beach across from the Ashworth Hotel.
The land was acquired, with the assistance of the state highway department, and steps to raise the needed funding for erecting a memorial statue and honor roll were initiated. Approximately $50,000 was estimated to be needed.
Public support and state assistance contributed to the success of the project. Meanwhile various ideas were reviewed. The unanimous choice was a design submitted by Concord resident Alice Cosgrove.
The artist Cosgrove made a scale model of her design which was executed -— lifesize -— in clay by a Cambridge, Mass. sculptor, Teodors Uzarins. They worked together to fashion the soft lady which would emerge from the solid granite.
The Work Begins
The New Hampshire capital was involved in the origin of the actual statue in another way.
The Memorial Lady was cut from a 24-ton granite block at Swenson's Granite Quarries of Concord. Shipped to Barre, Vermont for shaping, nearly 17 tons would be chipped away by Italian artist Vincenzo Andreani before the statue would be ready for her final trip to Hampton Beach.
From her six-foot base, forever facing the sea, the seated lady holding a wreath rises 12 feet high. The circular seat behind the base is 20 feet long, two feet, six inches wide and four feet high. Ten columns form the honor roll commemorating the 248 names of men who died at sea in military service.
Although Captain William D. Downs died near the end of World War II [May 25, 1945], fallen New Hampshire servicemen from other battlefields are also honored. Included are the names of two men who died in the destruction of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898. Also honored are five who were lost when their ships were destroyed en route to France in World War I. Included, too, are the names of four New Hampshire men who were lost when their ships were attacked in Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The Words Remain
The words to accompany the statuesque salute were chosen by the artist Cosgrove. They are from a poem by 18th century poet John Gay, "An Epistle To A Lady."
In the context of the original intent of William Downs' dream, the words are simple, the message clear, and the memory preserved.