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Groundbreaking for Fallen Heroes Memorial held in Lockport

LOCKPORT – The mother of a serviceman killed in Iraq praised the city’s plan for a Fallen Heroes Memorial after taking part in Tuesday’s ground-breaking ceremony.

Cathy MacFarlane said, “Sometimes if you can’t go in one direction, God opens a door in another direction. This was the door that opened in the other direction.”

After the death of her son, Spc. Albert R. Jex, who was killed in a suicide bomber’s attack on a convoy of Humvees in Iraq in 2009, the family asked the Common Council to name a bridge after him. The Council refused, and Jex is memorialized with a bench on Locust Street.

The question of memorials “is something the Council has struggled with for several years,” Mayor Michael W. Tucker said at the ceremony in Outwater Park.

The issue came to a head in May, when the president of the Lockport High School Class of 1983, which included Patricia Parete, asked that Rogers Avenue Park be renamed in her honor.

Parete, who died Feb. 2 at age 48, was a Buffalo police officer who was left a quadriplegic for six years after she was shot in the neck as she tried to break up a fight.

Council President Anne E. McCaffrey gave credit to Alderwoman Kathryn J. “Kitty” Fogle for raising the question of a “more inclusive” memorial, noting the city hadn’t honored Jex nor Niagara County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey Incardona, killed in a 1993 car crash as he was rushing to help a Lockport policeman who had been shot.

The Fallen Heroes Memorial, to be built around an old fountain near the overlook at the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, is meant to honor all those who were born or lived in the City or Town of Lockport and died in military, fire or police service.

After the names of all those from the past are inscribed on the panels, new names will be added as needed. “Our hope is, we don’t meet here too often,” Tucker said.

Wearing her son’s Army dog tags and a button showing his photo, MacFarlane said she thinks the more general memorial “is the way to go for it.”

The budget for the memorial is $150,000, but so far donations have been few. Alderman Kenneth M. Genewick, R-5th Ward, said the city had hoped to have online donations set up through the city’s website by now, but that won’t happen for several weeks.

For now, donations for the memorial may be mailed or dropped off at the City Treasurer’s Office.

Tucker said he anticipates that the memorial will open next year.

Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith said, “It is so critically important for all of us to remember the men and women who protect us every day, help us to be free as a country and put their lives on the line.”

“When you meet police or fire or military people on the street, thank them, because it’s hard to thank them after they’re gone,” said former County Legislator Gerald K. Farnham, a father of three service members. He was on hand to represent Assemblywoman Jane Corwin.

McCaffrey said the organizers hope the “serenity” of the view over the Escarpment will bring many visitors to what is intended as a solemn memorial.