ANTIOCH -- The John F. Kennedy memorial at the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds now gleams a bit brighter. And not just when the "Eternal Flame" is lit.
Antioch residents Bud and Sue Nelson, along with their daughter Jennifer Burror, volunteered to beautify the four-decades-old monument before last month's county fair.
The trio repaired cracks and repainted the monument, polished the marble and added new red, white and blue flowers in the flower beds. They also replaced the American flag that flies over the West 10th Street entrance to the fairgrounds.
Bud Nelson said their son David used to be a maintenance supervisor at the fairgrounds before he died a few years ago.
"He always took pride in that monument and cleaned up before fair time," Bud said.
After seeing that it "looked kind of shabby," Burror, an office manager at the fairgrounds, suggested that because her parents enjoy gardening, they clean it up as a family. All three of Bud and Sue's children worked at the fairgrounds.
"It hadn't been really made over in the nine years I've been here," she said.
The bronze statue itself had turned green, weeds were growing through the stone, and it had accumulated water stains and spider webs.
"It was a way to pay respect for our son, and for President Kennedy," Bud Nelson said.
"They did so much more than I expected. More than I think any of us at the fairgrounds expected," Burror said. "It was heartwarming."
The work was completed just in time for the opening of the Contra Costa Fair on May 29. Fairgoers, including picture-taking veterans, seemed to appreciate the new look, Burror said.
"It really became a focal point that drew attention as visitors walked in," she said. "A lot of people didn't even realize it was here."
The Nelsons pointed out that the timing is fortuitous in that this year's city Fourth of July celebration will be held at the fairgrounds, and visitors will have another chance to see the monument.
The monument was dedicated on Aug. 1, 1971. The idea came about six years earlier, as a diverse group of two dozen residents were drawn together by their shared sorrow after Kennedy's assassination.
"President Kennedy's death was a milestone. He believed in civil rights and equality and touched lots of people during his presidency," said Carmen Ochoa, a committee member.
The fairgrounds site was chosen because it is a small spot that represents the entire county and draws people of all ancestries together once a year.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.