Wednesday, December 2, 2009

William Dabney World War II veteran receives key to the city

William Dabney with Buffalo hat and key to the city

William Dabney with Buffalo hat and key to the city


It’s been a long-time coming for the African-American community and “we are glad to see the Harrison Museum move to the Center in the Square,” said Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea as Dr. James Sears President and General Manager of Center in the Square stood nodding in agreement. Sears said he is still waiting for Roanoke County to pledge $1 million toward renovation. The city has already pledged $2.5 million over 5 years.

A crowd of  70 packed the assembly room at the Harrison Museum Tuesday night. A decked-out table of food stood waiting for the conclusion of presentations and remarks.

The occasion marked the beginning of the museum’s move to Center in the Square but the undeniable star of the evening was Roanoke resident William Dabney, 85 who as a Corporal in World War II stormed Omaha beach June 6, 1944. He was 18 when he left and 21 when he returned. With his wife and son Vinnie by his side he watched a DVD put together in his honor. Vinnie, 57 is a therapist at Family Services of the Roanoke Valley.

In the hallway there were items set out for a silent auction. Browsing the items were Ms. C. C. Otey and Cecil Curtis, 88 who served with Dabney as a Corporal in WWII. Curtis is the founder of Hamlar-Curtis Funeral Home.

U.S. Presidents and foreign dignitaries have recognized Dabney. While in Normandy France this past June 6 commemorating D-Day’s 65 anniversary he received France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honor medal, by French Defense Minister Herve Morin. He was honored later at another event with President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

After the election of officers Sereina Paynter, Board President said, “they have been working toward this moment for four years.” The Harrison museum will complete the move of its offices to Center in the Square by the end of December. Sears hopes to have the space available to complete the transition by 2011.

As a museum of African-American culture it will always be an African-American museum and “relocating to be in the hub of the arts and culture community does not change that fact,” said Paynter.

The museum will continue to showcase African-American art, history and culture in its new location. Though there was nostalgia in the room Paynter said, “we smile with a tear as it is the end of one era and the beginning of another.”

Vice-Mayor Lea along with Council member Anita Price presented Dabney with the key to the city. “This is a small token of our appreciation … the highest award we can give you – you are a true hero,” said Lea. Click on photos to enlarge.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Local Events

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