Memorial Fountain

The history of the first drinking fountain at the park is one of many human stories encircling our community. In order to understand this part of the story, we have to remember that the Ben Avon Heights Community, like the rest of the country, was still trying to process the end of a terrible war. The personal cost of World War II left permanent marks on every individual in this community. While unclear as to when the Borough had purchased property from the Avonworth School District for the Community Park, what is clear is that in the May 1947 meeting of the Ben Avon Heights Community Club, Mrs. Richard Simon (Nancy Simon's mother) presented drawings of plans for a new park playground drawn by legendary landscape architect, John O. Simonds, her brother-inlaw and designer of many notable attractions, such as Mellon Park, Northside Commons and the Aviary. Mrs. Simons then shared a resolution to implement Simon's playground plans which was approved unanimously. The Community Club's recommendation was apparently accepted by Borough Council when a Children's Playground Fund was established in November of 1947. The issue of a fountain had not yet appeared, perhaps because Borough Council had yet to decide what to do with the land they purchased from the Avonworth School District. At that time, the park's usage was to be reconsidered after 10 years.

The subject of the fountain was not mentioned until March 1949 when the Community Club announced that a portion of benefits from a bridge party were to be allocated to a fund for a memorial drinking fountain "to be placed on the playground." Efforts to fund the park fountain continued, and in June 1949, Borough Council thanked the Community Club for its funding efforts and informed the Community Club that work would start on the fountain in the coming summer.

Playground improvement projects continued through 1950 and at the January 1951 Community Club meeting, Mrs. Adie Stevens announced plans for a WWII memorial fountain to be erected in the memory of the men and women who served in the last war. At that meeting, Mrs. Howard Fisher read a letter from Mr. Charles Stotz who had drawn up plans and estimated the cost of the fountain at approximately $1,500. At that meeting, Mr. Stotz' fountain plans were shared, along with the estimated cost and a committee was formed to approve the project and raise the funds necessary. By March of 1951, the Community Club had raised $1,523 – sufficient to fund the memorial drinking fountain. In April 1951, Borough Council accepted the Community Club's check and appointed Mr. Fisher and Mr. Unkefer to proceed with the erection of the memorial drinking fountain in the park. At the October 1951 meeting of the Community Club, it was announced that there will be a dedication service for the memorial drinking fountain on Armistice Day, November 11, 1951. The memorial contains the name of five young men from Ben Avon Heights who perished in WWII. Their names were engraved on a plaque and attached to the fountain. The plaque read: "those who gave their lives, Robert M. Bell, Robert M. Dunn, Wallace J. Kappel, Woodman B. Pomeroy and Robert J. Siegel."

The Honored

Through efforts of members of the centennial committee, the following information was compiled through input of the community and relatives of our Honored Dead. If any additional information is available we hope those with such information will provide it to enrich the Historical Record of Ben Avon Heights. Names are ordered as they appear on the memorial granite tablet.

Robert M. Bell

Sadly, Robert Bell has left no trace that we could find. There is a Bell family listed as living on Briar Cliff Road from 1950 -1969, but the dates do not match up with the installation of the fountain. For now, Mr. Bell remains a mystery.

Robert M. Dunn

Robert Dunn was born in 1918 and lived at 15 Canterbury Road with his parents and younger brother Donald. His brother Donald reports that though his memories of Robert are “Fuzzy” he remembers clearly that Robert liked to play. By reading between the lines of his email we can gather that Robert was something of a daredevil. He attended Ohio State, but his brother says Robert’s mind was always on flying and the usual other things – Girlfriends, Fraternity high jinx, and Ohio State football. His plane went down in the Pacific in 1943. He was a great favorite with everyone who knew him and he died doing what he loved to do – fly.

Wallace J. Kappel

The annual interclub golf competition between Shannopin, South Hills and Saint Clair Country Clubs was renamed in honor of Lt. Kappel. His father, William, donated the trophy, which has been referred to ever since as “The Kappel Cup.” Lt. Kappel’s parents made another bequest in his honor, providing funds for his alma mater, Shady Side Academy, to build the Kappel Faculty House in 1948.

Wallace J. Kappel made his first hole in one on the 17th hole of Shannopin Country Club in 1937. He was thirteen at the time and would go on to win and then successfully his title as Western Pennsylvania Golf Association Junior Champion in 1940 and 1941. Local sports writer, Eddie Beachler covered the 1940 Junior Championship and described Kappel as a “bespectacled rugged boy toting some 175 pounds (who) employs an unorthodox swing. He seems to chop at the ball, but showed amazing accuracy and made few bad shots.” In winning back-to-back championships in the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association Junior Tournament, Kappel became an early member of what has evolved into an elite group of golfers, including Sam Parks, Jr. and Arnold Palmer. Wallace Kappel lived at 4 Kent Road and graduated from Shadyside Academy. He entered Penn State in 1942 and while there joined the army and rose to the rank of lieutenant. He was killed in action in the Cebu Islands on April 11, 1945. He was 22 years old. Lt. Kappel was one of thousands of American servicemen whose remains did not return to the United States until well after the war and he was finally laid to rest on August 31, 1948. A plaque honoring Wallace for his service to his country hangs in the Penn State Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

Woodman B. Pomeroy

Tom and Frances Pomeroy lived at 17 New Brighton Road. They had two sons, Thomas and Woodman. Woodman was a graduate of Lafayette College and Harvard Medical School. He was affectionately known to his nieces and nephews as Uncle Woody. Woodman was married and his only son, Thomas Woodman, was born while his father was serving in WWII. Tragically Woodman was killed while on a flight over the South Pacific. The plane crashed on Marsh Peak, Sandy Beach, Guadalcanal on July 12, 1944. All aboard were killed. Woodman’s wife Joanne died in 2012 and his son lives today in Santa Fe with his wife Gretchen and two grown sons.

Robert Lang Siegel

Robert Siegel was born in 1919 and lived with his parents George and Edna Siegel at 12 Oxford Road from the time he was 13. He had a sister Jane who was nine years his junior. Though Robert was not large in stature he was really fast, so instead of playing football he was in track and field. He was really good, but would get muscle cramps so he started eating bananas for potassium. When people would run into him he was always seen carrying or eating a banana. He was a voracious reader and loved reading anything he could get his hands on. A good student, he graduated from Avonworth High School and attended Penn State where he was finance major and belonged to the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity. Robert enlisted in the Air Force and was a navigator on bomber planes. On May 9, 1942 Robert’s plane malfunctioned and all aboard were lost in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Guatemala during surveillance activities. His fourteen-year old sister received the telegram concerning his death on Mother’s Day and had to relate the news to her parents.

Memorial Fountain Restoration Re-Dedication (September 2018)

In 2013, the community's Centennial Committee approached Borough Council to work on a project for the funds remaining from the 2013 Centennial Celebration. It was then suggested that a restoration of the memorial fountain would be an appropriate use of the remaining Centennial Celebration Fund. While it has taken a number of years for the restoration to come to fruition, particular appreciation is expressed to Councilman John Radcliffe who encouraged the project to be conducted as a restoration rather than a replacement, as well as his efforts to ensure completion of the restoration work.

The base and center of the fountain were sent to Donatelli/Rome Monument in Monaca for cleaning and polishing, while the broken top section was shipped to Vermont to be rebuilt with black granite. Matthews International of Dormont, who had created the original plaque in 1951, was commissioned to clean and repaint the original bronze plaque and made a new plaque honoring the Centennial Committee's work in providing the funding for the restoration. After the fountain was restored, Jan Frisch painted the engraved names to highlight the lettering. McGinn Landscaping of Glenshaw with Jan Frish's efforts enabled the plaque to be restored with the lettering of the names on the fountain. McGinn Landscaping of Gibsonia installed the water line and built a new concrete base for the restored fountain.

And so, today we gather to rededicate the memorial fountain and recall those former residents of Ben Avon Heights who gave their lives in service to their country. We have a few individuals who will read biographies of the men honored in the fountain to connect us with those of our community who served and made the ultimate sacrifice.