From its humble beginnings in late 2020, to the memorial it has become today, the Seven Lakes Wall Of Honor began as a lasting tribute to my father, Don Kern and father-in-law, Chuck Levinger whom was a long-time resident of Seven Lakes.
My father, U.S.A.F., SMSGT Don Kern who served in Korea and U.S.M.C., CPL Chuck Levinger who served during WWII, in the South Pacific deserved like all Veterans to be remembered for their service to our country.I consider myself an “Air Force brat” traveling all over Europe with our family as my fatherspent 25 years in the military. I have five members that I’ve honoured on the wall.
One evening my husband Rick and I were talking about the story of his father’s enlistment. Chuck played trombone in a little band in High School with his best friend the famous composer, and winner of four Academy Awards, Henry Mancini.
During WWII, they both enlisted in 1943 the same day together in a little town outside Pittsburgh, Aliquippa, PA. Chuck in the Marine Corps. and Henry in the U.S. Army Air Force.
Rick said “everybody will remember Henry but nobody will remember my Dad.”So began our quest tobegin a community black granite memorial to be known as the Wall Of Honor.
We laid initial plans and received bids of $42,000 ++ for a two sided 8 foot long wall.We knew this would be impossible since we couldn’t rely on any local sales or property tax funding from Moore County.
First things first.We contacted Mike Berry at the Seven Lakes cemetery and put together a contract for the land that they would donate to our community. Mike then suggested to contact Custom Monument Company in Rockingham for the granite and engraving.
We received a better pricfor the first phase which only included the front side of the wall.We would still need to build the brick facade to place the granite which was donated by Bob Van Houten, owner of BVH Construction and the labor at cost.
The daunting task of getting the funds together remained on the horizon.Since I own the Seven Lakes News the community’s most widely read newspaper, I would donate all of the advertising to get the community involved in our fundraising efforts.
Then I initiated forming the Board of Directors with leading business members of our community; Ed Hill, Edward Hill Wealth Management, Tom Elliott, Sandhills Winery,
Gayle Mace, Mace Electric and Sam Ransdell, Burney Hardware and myself as its Executive Director to the initial board.Recently, owners Susan Read, Sandhills Collision and Neil Copeland Seven Lakes Kennels have joined the board.
My husband incorporated the new entity and we designed a website to begin to receive much anticipated donations.
We limited the Honorees to be engraved on the memorial to only members and their relatives of Seven Lakes.That first year we received 325 Veteran names to be engraved and enshrined on the memorial.This year we have almost 500 names to be honored.
The entire community overwhelmingly responded with their generosity in funding our Wall Of Honor.With donations in the amount of $10 to $1,000 we received the funds necessary to build and fund a large community event with the inaugural dedication taking place on November 13, 2021.
In addition the members of the local Vietnam Veterans Association,Chapter #966 donated a beautiful 1,300 lb. granite bench, and funds to help build the additional phase two on the North side of the wall.
We sponsor and produce major fundraising.events throughout the year which include Dinner Dances with headliner entertainment, a Classic Auto Show,two golf tournaments the Memorial and Fall Classics and the annual Helicopter Golf Ball Drop.
All of these events are supported by the community and continue to be sold out to the maximum capacity held at the Seven Lakes Golf Club.In 2023the Car Show and Helicopter Drop were held at the Lake House.
Every year on a Saturday in November to coincide with Veterans Day, the annual dedication is attended by approximately 750 + guests.
The board rents 500 chairs and suggest bringing a lawn chair.The program begins with our National Anthem sung this year by Miss Moore County, Calli McIntyre followed by the Honor Guard by Union Pines HS.
The dedication includes ten former U.S.military members that announce approximately 50 Veterans names engraved on the Wall Of Honor at the time honored tradition of “Roll Call.”
Additionally the event has singers performing hits of the 1940’s Vietnam Era and recent songs. L. Mace dancers perform a patriotic number and bagpiper JV Hudson Plays Amazing Grace among other songs accompanied by former Opera star Rose Young.SCC Jazz Band performed last year and we have Too Smooth Band for 2023.