For a better future, study the past.

Osteen, Florida World War I Monument

Panel at I. Walter Hawkins Park in Osteen, Florida
Interpretive panel located at I. Walter Hawkins Veterans Memorial Park in Osteen, Florida

Located off busy State Road 415, north of the pedestrian bridge which is a part of the East Central Regional Rail Trail, is a marble monument dedicated to Osteen residents who served, and in some case died, during World War I.

Information contained in the Florida Master Site file states that the original date and location of this monument is not clearly known. Tax assessor records indicate the monument was erected in 1936. This date however seems highly unlikely for multiple reasons. The first being, why would local residents wait so long to commemorate local soldiers who fell in service of their country. While a delay of nearly twenty years is possible, raising funds was certainly not an easy task, it seems that the local residents would have wished to dedicate this monument sooner.

The Master Site File indicates that the original location may have been near the intersection of
Thompson and Carpenter Avenues. If so, the 1936 date above may indicate that the monument
was moved to allow for road construction. The site file record is not clear on the 1936 location or
if the monument was again moved, but by 1969 the monument was located near the newly
constructed post office. Today, the monument is located in I Walter Hawkins Veterans Memorial
Park.

In April 1957, Hawkins, a local attorney and World War I veteran himself, appeared before the
Board of County Commissioners requesting they donate property “as a site for a War Memorial.”
Commissioners duly approved the resolution in part reading,

That that portion of the County barn property in County Commissioner’s District No. 5 of
Volusia County, Florida, located in Section 7, Township 19, Range 32 East, Volusia
County, Florida, lying south of the Florida East Coast Railway Right of way and east of
the Sanford-New Smyrna Road as relocated and west of the original Sanford-New
Smyrna Road be and the same is hereby dedicated as a Memorial Park in honor of the
United States Veterans of all wars.

On May 28, 2016, the Volusia County Council proclaimed it I. Walter Hawkins Veterans
Memorial Park Day. Based upon this proclamation, it is believed that the land donated in 1957 is
the same as that which was renamed in Hawkins honor.

Today, the park sits near the much busier State Road 415, in the rapidly growing area near
Deltona. The park contains an interpretive panel in addition to the monument. The monument
itself is made of marble and is approximately seven feet tall. The monument has a triangular top,
inscribed with “World War I, 1914-1918 on one side and a United States flag on the other. This
sits upon two columns and a three-stepped base. According to an interview conducted with local
resident Albert Pell on October 7, 2014, by Tom Baskett, Jr., County of Volusia Public
Historian, a marble sphere that was located on the top of the triangle is now missing from the
monument.

Osteen, Florida World War I monument
Osteeen,, FL monument honoring two locals who perished while in service during World War I.

On the second step is the phrase, “Erected by the citizens of Osteen in memory of her heroes of the World War.” Above this are the names of Charley (listed in some records as Charlie) C. Leonardy and W. McKinley Pell, two residents who both perished while in the service of the United States. Both Leonardy and Pell were from prominent local families.

Charley Leonardy enlisted in DeLand in October 1917 and served overseas for less than two months before losing his life. He is buried in Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in France. William McKinley Pell enlisted in DeLand in August 1918 and died of complications from pneumonia in October while serving at Camp Jackson, South Carolina.

On the reverse side of the monument are the names of other Osteen residents who served in
wartime. These individuals include (alphabetically) William C. (this should be O. as his middle
name was Ora) Carpenter, James A. (his middle initial may be C.) Hardy, Louis W. Hardy,
Philip (possibly Phillip) A. Leonardy, Harry A. Osteen, C. LeRoy Pell (his headstone and
enlistment record show his name as Calvin R. Pell, his father’s name was Calvin LeRoy Pell),
and Robert H. Williams.

Osteen, Florida World War I monument
Osteen, Florida monument honoring multiple local residents who served during World War I. Absent are the names of African Americn soldiers who served.

Mr. Baskett has pointed out a troubling aspect of this monument. He has questioned the selection process, as to whose names were included. He correctly points out that not all local residents who served are recorded. However, as he points out, some of these could be transplants who had no familial ties to the city when they registered. However, Mr. Baskett points out two names that should be included. Unfortunately, both of these men were African American, an “oversight” that cannot be imagined or accepted today.

Hershell McClenan enlisted in February 1918 and died later that year while still in the service
from pneumonia and influenza. James Radford enlisted in August 1918 and received an
honorable discharge in December. Born in Osteen but living in DeLand at the time of his
enlistment was African American soldier Morris Smith, Jr. Smith served from September 1918
through his discharge in July 1919.

The park and monument are open during daylight hours. There is no parking directly at the park but there are spaces close by.

Sources:

Baskett, Jr., Tom. “Osteen’s World War I Monument”. Typescript in possession of author.

Commissioners of Volusia County. Resolution passed April 18, 1957. Record Book 33, page
330.

County of Volusia. I. Walter Hawkins Veterans Memorial Park Day proclamation. May 28,
2016.

Findagrave

Florida Master Site File. World War I Monument. Site 8VO4929.

Florida Memory. World War I Service Cards.

If you are interested in veterans memorials in Volusia County, be sure to take a look at my post about the veterans park in Edgewater, FL. This small park is located on the Indian River and is a nice reflective area that you might not find if you aren’t looking for it.

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