There is no retirement for some people. Oh, Philip Blake may be retired – but not really retired. The former World War II soldier is too busy. For years, he has been making sure monuments to our veterans in Wichita don’t fall victim to age and neglect. With a little help from his friends and true grit this is one veteran who is making a historic difference.
“I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but I wouldn’t take a fortune for that experience.”
In Wichita, it is military monuments like this one in Riverside Park that owe a debt of gratitude to Phil Blake.
“I have become so acquainted with those memorials and learned the history of each of them, until it is precisely like I am visiting an old friend.”
It started when Phil saw the deterioration of the Bicentennial Memorial Flag Pavilion in Memorial Park along the river downtown. He wasn’t happy.
“The idea of permitting the Bicentennial Memorial to the United States flag to allow it to fall into such dilapidated condition was, to me, just disgraceful.”
That pavilion is now restored thanks to Phil who raised the issue with former Mayor Carlos Mayans – with help from the city, the congressional delegation and others, funding was secured.
“Once I got immersed in this, the thought of abandoning this was just unthinkable.”
Over the past few years, Phil has overseen the reconstruction of many of Wichita’s forgotten tributes to the past, like this on to the Spanish American War in Riverside Park.
“You will see a number of shrapnel wounds all over the surface. And I particularly like this fellow because he has his hand on his hip and he looks pretty saucy and jaunty and says – Go ahead, make my day.”
Another under Phil’s watchful eye is the World War II Memorial Stone in McAdams Park.
“And somebody had to do it…and if not me, who?”
‘Who’ indeed. Phil believes that saving and understanding Wichita’s war memorials is so important he’s even written a book about each and every one. It’s a simple story of freedom.
“If it’s not free, then somebody paid the price for that freedom. And the veterans are the ones who paid that price.”
“My two brothers and I all served in the South Pacific, and we all came home.”
LARRY’S TAG – Philip is still serving today. Part of the problem he says, is how to maintain these war memorials across the city. It takes money! That is one reason Philip wrote this book. The proceeds from the book go to maintain Wichita’s Veteran’s Memorials that are not otherwise endowed. Copies may be purchased by mail from:
PO Box 4754
Wichita, KS 67204
Cost: $25.00 Each