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BID TO CHANGE LIBRARY'S NAME LOSES STEAM

A proposal to change the name of Grand Island's library to honor a decorated Vietnam veteran and former town supervisor has been shelved by library officials and the Town Board.

In April, Douglas W. Harding of East River Road asked the town to change the name of the Grand Island Memorial Library on Bedell Road to the Martin T. Prast Memorial Library.

But officials said recently that the name change isn't going to happen.

"It's not actively being considered," said Supervisor Peter A. McMahon, who said the Town Board would have to approve any renaming of the library, which is a town building.

According to Dianna Schwartz, president of the library's board of trustees, the renaming was discussed at a recent library board meeting and was rejected by a unanimous vote.

"Everybody felt it was named for all the veterans and it shouldn't be named for one person particularly," said Ms. Schwartz. "It's called the Grand Island Memorial Library to honor the veterans that served in wartime."

Prast died Jan. 21 at the ageof 50.

An Army veteran and Green Beret paratrooper, Prast was wounded three times in Vietnam, including a 1970 incident in which he lost the use of both legs when a grenade damaged his spine. He received two Bronze Stars for heroism, the Purple Heart, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, the Army Commendation Medal and the Combat Infantry Badge.

Prast was town supervisor for one term in the 1980s. Under his tenure, the Grand Island Memorial Library -- located in Veterans Park -- was built.

In his letter to the Town Board requesting the name change, Harding -- a former town employee of 14 years -- wrote:

"Marty's recent death was truly a sad end to a true American patriot whose life touched more of humanity than probably any Islander before him. We as Islanders can rejoice that we were the fortunate ones who knew him. That is why I feel, as other Islanders do, that we have an excellent and fitting opportunity to honor his life forever."

While the library renaming didn't work out, Prast is still a prime candidate for future commemoration by the town, said Councilman Richard W. Crawford Jr., the Town Board's liaison to the library board.

"The opportunity will exist for us to honor Mr. Prast," Crawford said. "Certainly, it helps identify a town and its local history when local landmarks are renamed for people in that town's history. . . . It only makes sense for a community to do that."

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