The newest monument at Veterans Freedom Park in La Crosse stands as a tribute to women who have served in wars — and to one local woman, specifically.
“It’s the highlight of my life, I think. I’ve never been so honored,” Marian Pavela said.
Pavela served in the Cadet Nurse Corps during World War II and the statue at Veterans Freedom Park was built in her likeness.
The La Crosse woman could not have been happier Monday afternoon.
“I can’t believe that these people showed up,” she exclaimed. “I’m very pleased. It is a wonderful event. I didn’t realize it was so big.
“I’m humbled. Very humbled. I can’t believe all this is happening. My goodness!”
Pavela said she tells her great-granddaughters that, in the future, they can all achieve more than she has.
La Crosse veteran Louis Ferris wanted to do something for the women who served their country.
It’s the first sculpture of a woman at that park, and Ferris said he was inspired by a young girl who came to the freedom park and saw other works of art there.
“She looked up at that big doughboy (statue) and I thought, ‘I wonder what she’s thinking. What’s going through her mind? Where’s her rolemodel,'” Ferris said. “So we gotta do something for women — and the rolemodel.”
Ferris kept his promise.
Sitting in the front row during the ceremony, not only did Pavela feel honored to be selected as the model, she believes it also honors the people of La Crosse.
The dedication marks 75 years after the founding of the Cadet Nurse Corps, which was formed during World War II and remained in existence into the late 1940s.
It stands at the park, honoring women of the past, as well as those serving in wartime now. Dozens, including many local veterans, gathered to honor the installation of the 10-foot statue.