World War I memorial largely forgotten, unknown in Quincy cemetery

Posted: Nov. 29, 2012 11:09 pm Updated: Jan. 11, 2013 1:15 am

She stands with outstretched hands and arms to silence the cannons of war.

The winged sculpture in Quincy Memorial Park is called "Peace." She stands in bas-relief at the western edge of the cemetery grounds at 52nd and Broadway in a five-ton limestone element, set in a 300-ton stone and marble World War I monument. Peace has a youthful face, but the monument in which she resides shows the wear and tear of standing watch since 1939.

"It is absolutely an outstanding work of art. Quincy cannot let this go to waste," said Cindy Wiltshire a Quincy native now living at Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks.

Wiltshire first learned about the sculpture after her son sent her a story from the Kansas City Star in September 2000. She was living in Canton, Mo., at the time and made the trip with her mother to see a local war memorial that she had never heard about. Wiltshire was in awe of the beautiful artwork, but was heartbroken that the memorial has deteriorated and is known to only a small percentage of the populace.

Larry Smith, owner of Quincy Memorial Park, wants to see something better for the monument as well.

"I tried to donate it to the historical society and the Vets Home 15 or 20 years ago and they didn't want it," Smith said.

"It would be awsome to fix it up like it was originally, but that's a lot of money."

There also might be families upset if the monument is moved. Smith said some people have bought plots in that section of the cemetery specifically because of the sculpture.

The sculptor's history adds to the story of Peace.

The artist was known as John Schlitz ... as well as John Mosher, John Shlitz and John von Schlitz. He was a talented sculptor as well as a con artist and petty criminal -- which explains the use of many names.

Born in Austria in 1895, Schlitz emigrated to the United States in 1914. He was convicted of grand theft and larceny in 1917 and spent time in the Wyoming penitentiary. He escaped on May 4, 1919, and joined the U.S. Army.

Schlitz was sent to Germany, where the next year he was accused of murdering a sergeant with a pistol. He was convicted and received a life sentence that was later reduced to 45 years.

While serving his prison term in Leavenworth, Kan., Schlitz was able to do some sculpting and was gifted enough that he created Peace for Quincy and "War Angel" for a war memorial at Brookfield, Mo.

The late Quincy historian Carl Landrum wrote that Schlitz was released from prison in 1945 and "simply disappeared."

Wiltshire wants to make sure Peace doesn't disappear in plain sight.

She has worked for years to find parties interested in restoring the memorial. George M. Irwin paid to have overgrown bushes removed from the sides of the monument and to place a metal door on a storage space at its rear. A number of preservation groups and veterans groups have looked at the statue, but either don't have the money or will only help if the art work is moved to a public place. Quincy Memorial Park is privately owned.

Wiltshire would love to see the sculpture transferred to the Illinois Veterans Home or some equally suitable venue. During a recent visit to Quincy, she tried to bring attention to the monument.

"If Quincyans are made aware of it, somebody surely would be interested in doing something with it," Wiltshire said.

Until that happens Peace will stand in a forgotten corner of the cemetery, a silent reminder of what Americans hoped would be the war to end all wars.