Iconic statue removed from Royal Oak, new memorial planned in it's place

Royal Oak, Mich. (WXYZ) - The 25-foot tall statue that has had drivers doing double-takes, and people walking by taking selfies, has left Royal Oak.

Back in June a statue called ‘Embracing Peace’ that represents the iconic photograph that marked VJ Day 1945, was erected at Memorial Park along Woodward Avenue.

The statue is part of a push to raise money for a permanent Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial. The goal is to raise $3 million. The President of the group behind the permanent structure said they’re still tabulating donations.

“I can’t say enough about everyone that’s come out and helped us,” said Debi Hollins, the President of the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial group. “From people pulling dollars out of the pockets and putting it into a bucket at our events to $50,000 donations we’ve received, every bit is helping.”

According to Hollis, the 6-month stay for the statue has spurred more momentum than they originally expected. While it remains to be seen if they’ve hit their fundraising goal, it’s clear that they’ve gained recognition from people in the community.

Hollis told 7 Action News that some people thought the statue was the permanent memorial they were working on, so her group has already heard the response from community members about how much they want to see WWII veterans honored.

“We did feel, firsthand, the enthusiasm, love and the stories,” said Hollis. “It was heartwarming.”

It took more than two hours to remove the statue.

It’s next location will be in Florida following a 1,000-plus mile drive south.

Before it went at least a dozen people came to Memorial Park for a final goodbye. People snapped pictures, while drivers whizzing by during the morning commute honked their horns as a giant crane lifted the structure.

Across the street, Kassem Koubise was taking pictures. He works at the gas station directly across the street and said it’s sad to see the structure disappear.

“It sucks to see it go, but it was beautiful while it lasted,” said Koubise. “I had people from all over coming here to take pictures of it.”

There’s hope that the same excitement will return with the future groundbreaking of the next step for Memorial Park.

Only time will tell if it’s met with the same excitement, but Hollis said she’s seen the signs that people are yearning for the project.

“All of this made the reality of that memorial real,” said Hollis.

If you’d like to read more about the group’s plans for Memorial Park, donate, or get information about upcoming fundraisers you can visit the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial website, here.

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