A ceremony adding 74 names to the West Rockhill Veterans Memorial in James Park in November took on new meaning for friends and family of Charlie Guenst by the end of 2020.

Guenst, 87, died on Dec. 13, just over a month after a Nov. 8 celebration that included an acapella quartet, a bugle player and a pavilion of West Rockhill veterans and residents. 

The memorial started when Guenst was appointed as a “committee of one” after suggesting the township create its own memorial during a township supervisors’ meeting about 20 years ago, said his wife Lois Guenst last week. 

“He just went to all the people, from door to door … and he talked to them and he got all the information that he could,” she said.

Charlie Guenst, an Army veteran, managed to get the names, military branch and years of service of many of the 391 names included in the first five memorial plaques on his own.

“He just was very patriotic, I guess you would call him. It’s just something he thought was necessary that we have this to remember all the time they served in memoriam and the (veterans) that are still living,” Lois Guenst said.

The boulders holding up the bronze plaques came from the family’s West Rockhill property, where Charlie had constructed the house the two would raise their three daughters — Kim, Jill and Vicki.

Vicki Dixon said he father was known throughout the community as “jack of all trades” who could fix just about anything.

“Dad just loves helping people. If you needed it, and you asked him, he helped you,” Dixon said. 

As Guenst worked to get the memorial project off the ground, his efforts drew in more help from the township’s Parks and Recreation Committee and local businesses.

The memorial had some additional names added throughout the years, but the township officials in 2019 began working on getting new names.

West Rockhill resident and Army Veteran Charlie Guenst  (center) looks over one of the plaques at the township's veterans memorial on Nov. 8. Guenst, who died on Dec. 13, was responsible for creating the original 391-name memorial in 2005.

Fred Diseroad, an architect who designed the original monument, said the November ceremony was a fitting, albeit unanticipated, tribute to Guenst’s passion project.

“Everybody said to me, ‘It was nice Charlie, who was so instrumental in getting this thing together, stayed around long enough to get to see it updated,” Diseroad said.

“It’s sort of a miracle that a single person could make this happen,” addedDiseroad.

A full list of township veterans and a video of last month’s ceremony can be found online at www.westrockhilltownship.org.

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