GENEVA – Merritt King, a D-Day veteran with a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and the French Legion of Honor, was a Geneva institution when he died at age 93 in January.
Geneva resident Colin Campbell said he wants a permanent marker to honor King’s service, not only to his country but also to the city.
“He was a genuine World War II hero,” Campbell said at a recent Geneva City Council meeting. “He returned to Geneva and ran a successful business. He was deeply involved in many community organizations throughout his tenure of living here. He was one of the longest serving aldermen on the City Council … and many other things I think people are not aware of.”
King, who ran a heating and cooling company, was responsible for finding a misplaced 18th century creche that now belongs to the Geneva History Center and is displayed every Christmas.
“I would like to propose that the city of Geneva create a permanent memorial to Merritt King to be placed in the downtown area,” Campbell said. “A plaque with his name and something about him on it.”
Campbell said King’s two daughters were supportive of the idea and to have it in front of the Geneva History Center, 113 S. Third St., where King had been historian emeritus. Campbell proposed building a small pedestal on the parkway built of the brick pavers used throughout the downtown.
He offered to do the fundraising if the council gives him direction.
“That would be a perfect tribute,” 3rd Ward Alderwoman Dawn Vogelsberg said.
Mayor Kevin Burns said the city is working on guidelines to identify rights of way throughout the community that could be used for plaques to honor, memorialize or recognize someone. It would involve outside fundraising so it would not be a city expense, but officials would have to approve the signage on public rights of way.
“It is an appropriate recognition for members of the community who have contributed so much,” Burns said.
Terry Emma, executive director of the Geneva History Center, said she would like to see recognition of King. However, she suggested a statue sitting on the bench instead of a plaque on a pedestal – something like the bronze statue of Col. Baker sitting in front of the Baker Hotel in St. Charles.
“Merritt spent a lot of time on that bench,” Emma said. “It would be a perfect place … and somehow correlate that with us. A bronze statue of Merritt King sitting on the bench, inviting people to come to the history center. I don’t know if we could achieve something like that.”