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Committee kicks off fundraising effort for John Winant memorial

John Gilbert Winant in London on July 9, 1943. (AP Photo)

John Gilbert Winant in London on July 9, 1943. (AP Photo)

With donations from the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom and St. Paul’s School in hand, a committee dedicated to creating a memorial for former governor John Gilbert Winant is $60,000 closer to its $150,000 fundraising goal.

Rep. Steve Shurtleff, a Penacook Democrat and chairman of the John Winant Memorial Committee, announced the gifts yesterday as part of an update on the project. Ambassador Matthew Barzun gave $50,000 and St. Paul’s gave $10,000 to the project. Winant, a Republican, was first elected governor in 1929 and served three terms, then became the first head of the Social Security Board and, later, U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain during World War II. By fall 2015, the committee hopes to build a memorial in his honor on the state library grounds.

“I would suggest to you that he is one of the most important figures in world history in the first half of the 20th century,” said Van McLeod, commissioner of the state Department of Cultural Resources.

The $150,000 fundraising goal includes $94,000 to build the memorial, designed by sculptor J. Brett Grill of Missouri. The rest will go toward a maintenance fund, so that no public money will be needed for upkeep, and to create scholarships for the Advanced Studies Program at St. Paul’s School in Concord. Before becoming politically involved, Winant was a teacher at St. Paul’s. As a student at St. Paul’s, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry created the John Winant Society for students to discuss politics and world affairs.

Three honorary co-chairs have been named to help raise money for the project: Concord developer Steve Duprey, artist Mary McGowan and St. Paul’s rector Mike Hirschfeld. Hirschfield praised the committee, which has been meeting since 2013, for its hard work on the project to recognize Winant.

“Good ideas are easy to come by,” he said. “Realizing good ideas and making them happen is a whole different thing.”

The sculpture will feature Winant sitting on a bench, with room for passers-by to sit down next to him. Winant’s tenure as governor was marked by compassion, and he was known to give out 50-cent pieces to homeless men as he passed them on his way into the State House. As ambassador to Britain, he was instrumental in sending U.S. aid to Britain and later supporting the United States’s efforts with the Allies.

“Whether an individual contributes $50,000, like Ambassador Barzun did, or 50 cents, the amount of money Governor Winant would give to the homeless who would meet him on his way to the State House, all contributions are greatly appreciated and acknowledged,” Shurtleff said.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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