SPARTA, Mich. (WOOD) — Hundreds of people gathered at the newly renamed Lamoreaux Brothers Veterans Memorial Park in Sparta on Memorial Day to rededicate the town’s “Shorty’s Monument” honoring local soldiers killed in World War I.

The new Shorty’s Monument comes almost eight decades after the first one was installed in Sparta.

“To see it come to fruition, I said pinch myself,” Larry Carter, who emceed the rededication ceremony, said. “That’s about the best way I can describe it. It just is a wonderful, wonderful way to honor these seven (soldiers’ name) plates that were lost for 90 years…”

The statue’s story began in 1920, when the Sparta Village Council decided to build a traffic pedestal on the corner of Division and Union streets. On that pedestal were brass plates bearing the names of the seven men from Sparta who gave their lives in WWI. Over time, it became known as Shorty’s Monument, a reference to T.C. “Shorty” Hodgins, the village constable who directed traffic at that corner.

The monument sat at that corner for 13 years. The city was going to move it, but instead it was presumably destroyed.

For decades, the question of what happened to the monument went unanswered. Then in 2019, the seven brass nameplates were discovered in a resident’s barn.

“I was shocked,” Tom Cheslek, co-chairman for the Shorty’s Monument Committee, said. “I lived a quarter of a block from that intersection that this monument was originally placed at. We knew about it but had no idea of whatever happened to it. Nobody knew what happened to the bronze plates.”

People came out to the park Tuesday to see the monument and pay their respects, including family members of the seven soldiers, some of whom shared stories about their relatives.

Mark Cosgrove’s wife’s great uncle, Charlie Briggs, is one of the men whose name is engraved on the memorial. Cosgrove said they had no idea about the relation until just a few years ago.

“We found information on him and some documents that her mother had passed down, and little did my wife know that her great uncle was killed in 1918 in WWI,” he said. “My wife has very taken aback… It was very emotional.”

So far, the community has raised about $50,000 to put toward the monument, which will stay at Lamoreaux Veterans Memorial Park.