One of Manchester New Hampshire’s more recent statues, and one of the few that honors women, can be found in Stanton Plaza, on the southwest corner of Pleasant Street and Elm, opposite Veterans Park. Called the Grieving Gold Star Mother, it depicts a sorrowful World War II mother with a single tear on her cheek, who had just learned her child had died while in service to their country. She is leaning against a small table that holds a bouquet of flowers and a photograph; her other hand is clutching a telegram that carried the news.
It would be impossible to tell the history of this statue without beginning with a bit of history about its location. The plaza on which the Grieving Gold Star Mother statue now sits was designated between 1985-1987 to honor three time Mayor Charles R. Stanton (served 1970-1971 and 1975-1981) who was also General Manager of the Manchester Transit Authority. Charles R. Stanton died in May 1985 at the age of 56.
Since then Stanton Plaza has remained a constant landmark though the hotel behind it has changed names a few times (i.e. Center of New Hampshire, Radisson Hotel and most recently Manchester Downtown Hotel, a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel). The Stanton Plaza land was obtained by the city through eminent domain–the former location of a rooming house on Elm Street in Manchester, taken for the Center of New Hampshire project. For three decades Stanton Plaza been used for a variety of city-sponsored events from holiday tree lightings, ‘Arts in the Parks’ shows and Farmer’s Market Days to being the physical end point of numerous parades.
The statue itself was a multi-year project of the New Hampshire Gold Star Mother’s Memorial Association (NHGSMMA). The ground-breaking ceremony was held on 30 March 2008 in front of the then-Radisson Hotel and Stanton Plaza. In 19 August 2010 at a cost of about $75,000, this life-sized bronze statue was delivered and unveiled [additional funds were also raised to pay for the surveying and landscaping]. Engraved bricks laid surrounding the statue were sold as part of a fund raising campaign. The statue was officially dedicated in 2011 when the memorial was handed over to the city of Manchester. At that time then-Mayor Ted Gastas said that a memorial service would be held each year on the first Sunday in May to commemorate the loss and sacrifice that the statue epitomizes. KNA [Keach-Nordstorm Associates Inc.] provided the surveying and landscape designs.
Created by the sculptor, Andrew L. Chernak, the Grieving Gold Star Mother statue is one of six cast from Chernak’s original mold and erected across the nation. The goal of this statue is to “help a forgetful country remember the Gold Star Mothers and the sacrifices of their children.” Gold Star Mothers celebrate two days dedicated to mothers–the traditional Mother’s Day in May and also Gold Star Mother’s Day held on the last Sunday in September of each year.
My thanks to Chris Forkey of the NHGSMMA and Michael Intranuovo, Archivist Manchester City (NH) Archives for their help in researching this story.
***** ADDITIONAL READING *****
100 Years Ago: New Hampshire Gold Star Mothers