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Gov. Beshear To Dedicate Permanent COVID Memorial on Capitol Grounds

Installation by Kentucky artist Amanda Matthews honors losses, sacrifices during pandemic

                                   beshear coleman

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Gov. Andy Beshear, First Lady Britainy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman will join state and local officials, along with several Kentucky families, to dedicate the permanent Kentucky COVID Memorial on the grounds of the Kentucky State Capitol.

The memorial – titled “United We Stand. Divided We Fall.” – was designed and sculpted by Kentucky native Amanda Matthews, artist and chief executive officer of Lexington-based Prometheus Foundry.

“This phenomenal new memorial honors the 18,653 Kentuckians lost during this once-a-century pandemic,” Gov. Beshear said. “It will stand in a place of prominence in the Capitol Monument Park for generations to come so that they might learn about the great challenges we faced and how Kentuckians came together during this crisis.”

Wednesday’s dedication will open with the chiming of bells by Kandie Adkinson from the Secretary of State’s office. Early in the pandemic, the Governor asked Kentuckians to unite by ringing bells at 10 a.m. each day so that those who were feeling alone would know we were with them. Throughout the pandemic, each weekday at 10 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda, Kandie rang her father’s bell one hundred and twenty times to honor those lost in each county.

Lt. Gov. Coleman will welcome officials and honored guests in attendance, followed by a prayer from Bishop Kevin McCraney, senior pastor of The City of Refuge Ministry in Louisville.

Elder Mario Webb and the New Covenant Gospel Choir will perform “Precious Lord” before the program’s main remarks.

A COVID-19 Memorial Advisory Panel comprising health care heroes, family members and loved ones of those lost and COVID-19 survivors selected the final design for the memorial. Jacqueline Woodward, who served as a member of the advisory panel, will speak during the ceremony.

“The COVID-19 Memorial is a beautiful way to honor all those we loved dearly. It will ensure future generations remember the dedicated Kentuckians we lost during this tragic pandemic that impacted so many lives,” said Woodward. “May the memorial be another means to bring comfort and peace to those who lost a loved one. I feel truly blessed to be a part of this project.”

Dr. Jason Smith, chief medical officer at UofL Health, will also speak on the impact of COVID-19 in the commonwealth and the memorial’s creation.

“This memorial honors the thousands of Kentuckians we lost throughout the pandemic. It also represents the strength of our commonwealth and our citizens to join together, support each other and persevere,” said Dr. Smith. “The pandemic revealed many heroes. In particular, it shines a light on the incredible work of our health care workers, who put themselves on the front line to protect and heal our community. This memorial is a symbol of hope and stands as a reminder that our work towards keeping our state safe is not done.”

Gov. Beshear will speak about the twin legacies of the COVID era in Kentucky.

“I believe there are two legacies of this pandemic. One is loss. In a little more than three years, this evil virus caused the deaths of more than 1.1 million Americans, including more than 18,600 Kentuckians,” the Governor said. “But this memorial also reflects a second legacy of COVID, and that’s the unity and coming together that saved tens of thousands of lives and ultimately allowed us to end the pandemic. We, as Kentuckians, answered the call in times of tragedy and lived out our faith and values: living for one another, loving our neighbors as ourselves and being the Good Samaritans helping those in need.”

Matthews, the artist and an eighth-generation Kentuckian, said she felt honored to have been chosen to create the new installation.

“The design elements of the Kentucky COVID Memorial Monument, United We Stand. Divided We Fall., captures the ideals and visual symbols of our state motto and seal in 3-dimensional form. Most important to the concept are the diverse people of Kentucky and their fear and grief during the time of COVID, yet their strength and hope for better days,” said Matthews.

Wednesday’s dedication will close with a prayer from Rabbi David Wirtschafter of Temple Adath Israel in Lexington, who posed the following: “In keeping with the great American poet and WWI veteran, Archibald MacLeish, Ms. Matthews’ creation challenges us to answer the question: What will these COVID deaths mean? Whether they are for a new hope or for nothing is up to us.”

After the final prayer, Webb and the New Covenant Gospel Choir will perform “Amazing Grace.”

The memorial features ADA-accessibility design, including visual, audible and tactile. Green lights, symbolizing empathy and compassion for the Kentuckians lost throughout the pandemic, encircle the center of the monument, and white lights shine through the night until sunrise each morning.

The primary donors to the Team Kentucky COVID-19 Memorial Fund are Norton Healthcare, Baptist Health, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, King’s Daughters Health System, UofL Health, University of Kentucky and Pikeville Medical Center. Numerous private donations rounded out the funding and no tax dollars were used.

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