When Mable McKenzie – 68 at the time – was expanding her Victorian mansion to make a home for seven adopted children, she envisioned it as a town library one day.

That was before a tornado destroyed the 103-year-old structure to its foundation in 1998.

“I came into this world with nothing. I grew up with nothing, but I wanted to leave something behind,” she said.

Now, the 76-year-old woman has her chance.

McKenzie is donating the lot where her home once stood along Grant Street to local veterans’ associations, whose members are planning to build a memorial to veterans from the borough and Elk Lick Township.

It would be the only memorial of its kind in the borough.

“I’m very military-oriented,” McKenzie said, adding that her father, husband and three sons served in the Armed Forces.

“I would have made a great sergeant,” she said with a laugh.

It’s certain she has the organizational skills.

The Salisbury native raised four children and adopted another seven when she was in her 60s. Now that her oldest is off to culinary school in Pittsburgh, she wants to continue giving in other ways.

John McKenzie, borough Chamber of Commerce president, pointed to sketches for a memorial he has been working on for more than a year.

The drawings show a water fountain with marble walls to commemorate those who served in each conflict, starting with the Revolutionary War.

“I’ve been hoping for this since I got back from World War II,” the 82-year-old former Air Corps member said.

A few months ago, chamber member Kay Kemp called McKenzie looking to purchase land for a possible memorial.

“It was meant to be,” Kemp said, with a beaming smile.

“This is something we needed. How do we know what our country would be like without (the veterans).

“When (McKenzie) called and said she would donate it, I about cried,” she said.

Earl Thomas, 73, said he remembers visiting the borough’s only other public recognition of service members – a large billboard with a wooden eagle.

The board was erected during World War II and listed names of soldiers called to duty. A star would mark a fallen GI.

“We used to walk a mile every couple of nights to check,” Thomas said.

No one seems to know what happened to the board, or the eagle, Kemp said.

“It just disappeared,” she said.

Mable McKenzie said a new marker is long overdue.

“The day they tore my house down, the whole town gathered and stood and cried,” she said.

“Now people can gather again for the memorial.”

The project will be managed by a board of chamber members, members of American Legion Post 459 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8826 and their auxiliary groups, and borough and township officials.

Kemp said their next move will be to find an architect so the group can pursue funding options.

“The main thing is that, now, we have the ground,” she said.

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