SHEFFIELD VILLAGE – From now on, one seat at Dick Sevits Football Stadium in the Sheffield-Sheffield Lake School District will remain perpetually empty. Last Friday evening before kickoff, school and elected officials, accompanied by several dozen veterans, unveiled a POW/MIA Chair of Honor.
The chair remains empty in recognition of the more than 91,000 American soldiers who have not been accounted for since World War I. The program was created by Boston area Vietnam veteran Joe D'Entremont in 2012, according to a 2017 story in Military Times.
More than 500 Chairs of Honor have been placed at locations across the United States, including Boston's Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium and TD Park, also known as Boston Garden; Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis; Atlanta's SunTrust stadium; Miami's Marlins Park; and Chicago’s United Center. In Ohio, chairs are on view at The Ohio State University and University of Akron as well as at high schools in Medina, Brunswick, Bath, Amherst and Firelands, according to Stephanie Whitman, marketing manager for Hussey Seating Co. of North Berwick, Maine. Hussey donated the chair to Brookside High School while Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will and Sheriff Phil Stammitti picked up costs for shipping and creating a wood base on which the chair is mounted.
Vietnam veteran and Brookside alumnus Gary Gruner suggested the idea to Brookside officials last school year. Gruner and fellow veteran Mike Schrull met with officials to plan the solemn ceremony that took place last week. Dozens of veterans, many belonging to Patriot Guards motorcycle club, rode the half mile from the Sheffield Village Police Department on Colorado Avenue to the football stadium at the intersection of Colorado and Harris Road.
The program included the national anthem and a 21-gun salute before Sheffield VIllage Mayor John Hunter and Sheffield Lake Mayor Dennis Bring pulled a cover off to reveal the chair.
"Our district is very proud to honor service members who were prisoners of war or are still missing in action, said Superintendent Mike Cook. "We have a large population of veterans in our community who made great sacrifices and I know this will be very meaningful to them and to every person who enters our stadium."