History of memorial will be sealed inside time capsule

History of memorial will be sealed inside time capsule by David Lias Memorial Day services, which traditionally have been held at the National Guard Armory in Vermillion, will be celebrated this year beneath the fluttering flags of the Clay County Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the Clay County Courthouse.

A special component of this year's ceremony, set to begin at 10 a.m. May 28, will be the placing of a time capsule at the memorial that will include photographs of its dedication and a written history of how the idea for the memorial was eventually turned to reality.

Leo Powell, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, will give the introduction. Boy Scout Troop 165 will lead the Pledge of Allegiance. The invocation will be given by the Rev. Sandy Aakre.

General John Logan's Orders will be read by Dave Wherry. Darrel Christopherson will address the audience that gathers at Monday's services, and he and Warren Morse will place the time capsule at the memorial.

Carl Carlson will give the honor roll call. Music will be provided by vocalist Wendy Pederson, who will sing Amazing Grace.

Wreaths will be placed by Dick Barta, American Legion commander, Evelyn Hermanson, American Legion Auxiliary president, Opal Smith, VFW Auxiliary president, and James Kronaizl, VFW chaplain.

Marlys Miller will sing The Star Spangled Banner, followed by the benediction given by the Rev. Aakre.

The VFW firing squad will present the salute to honor the dead, followed by Taps by Jaycee Henderson.

History of the memorial

Christopherson and Morse were having coffee one day in 1994 when they discussed the lack of a suitable memorial for local veterans. They talked about the old memorial in Prentis Park and the need to move it out of the trees to a place where the public could more easily see it.

The two veterans discussed the idea of constructing a new veterans memorial with the Clay County Commission in March 1994. The concept of the memorial was approved by the commissioners a month later.

Mayor Bill Radigan, with the approval of the Vermillion City Council, appointed a committee of local veterans in May 1995 to work on the project. The committee was originally called the Vermillion Area Veterans' Memorial Committee and was later changed to the Clay County Veterans Memorial Committee.

The committee was charged with selecting a site, developing a design, raising funds and building the memorial using the monuments given to the city by Kenneth Mockler and the monument located in Prentis Park.

The original committee consisted of Radigan, who served as chairman, Gus (A.O.) Amundson, Harvey Hanson, Michael Hauck, Dick Hirsch, Leo Powell and Warren and Fern Morse.

Over the course of the five years that the committee worked on the project, Amundson, Hanson and Hirsch died. Jerry Anderson, Bill Willroth Sr. and Dave Wherry were added to the committee.

S.L. Martin, C.J. Stewart and Ralph Westergaard worked closely with the group and attended many of the meetings. Andrew Knutson was working to become an Eagle Scout and helped on a number of assignments.

In June 1995, it was decided to build the new memorial on the grounds of the courthouse. As work progressed on its design, it was decided that a hidden storage receptacle would be buried at the southeast corner of the memorial detailing the story of Mockler's contribution.

Fund raising for the project began in the spring of 1998. Larry Brady, a local businessman and veteran, donated all five flagpoles and flags for the memorial, providing a major boost to keep the project moving. Donations from veterans and money raised at an auction in February 1999 also helped provide capital for the project.

Luken Memorials was contracted to move the memorial from Prentis Park and place it, along with the monuments from the Mockler farm, on the new memorial site.

The company was also contracted to build the benches from some old stone steps from the courthouse as well as make the sign that is in the southeast corner of the wall by the steps leading to the memorial.

Sandy Dickenson completed plans for the memorial May 1, 1999.

Committee members decided to build the memorial with local help, using a combination of volunteer and paid workers. Grant and Gregg Sammelson/Sammelson Brothers began the construction by opening the ground and setting the grade. They provided the fill as needed, got the project moving and donated all of their services.

Charles Taggart was contracted to do the majority of the concrete work with the help of several of his family members. Mike Taggart and Harlan (Shorty) Hanson donated several days' work opening up the wall and rebuilding the southeast corner.

MidContintental Restoration was contracted to complete the concrete work and put the finishing touches on the wall.

Electrical work to house the wiring that powers the memorial's lights was provided by Vermillion Light and Power. Clay-Union Electric donated equipment needed to trench in the power, relocate the park monument and set the flagpoles. The cooperative also set the light poles and hung lighting fixtures.

Cindy Gehm was contracted to design the landscaping. She also took care of the shrub planting. Dave Roetman planted grass at the memorial site with the help of several committee members.

Over the course of five years, all the committee members and several local veterans put in a number of hours working on parts of the project.

The memorial was completed in mid-October 2000, and dedicated the next month on Veterans Day.

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