Area Veterans Day memorial dedications planned
GIBSON CITY – It has been a "labor of love" for Gibson City resident Randy Ferguson, who spearheaded a new personalized memorial to veterans.
A dedication ceremony for the large, granite, engraved markers will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the memorial's permanent site at the southwest corner of Drummer Township Cemetery on Gibson City's west side.
The ceremony will feature talks by veteran Lee Barry of Gibson City and Ferguson. Gibson City's Eagle Scouts will read local veterans' war stories, and the meaning of taps will be explained. Singer Steve Anderson will perform the national anthem and "Have You Forgotten," which Dave Worley wrote to mark the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy.
The dedication will also feature World War II-era memorabilia, including a 1942 Harley Davidson WLA military motorcycle, a 1942 Willeys slat-grill Jeep and a 1944 Cushman Model 53 Airborne Motor Scooter.
Lunch at The American Legion in downtown Gibson City will follow the dedication.
Ferguson, a former Gibson City council member and current Ford County Board trustee, said he was inspired to begin the project in January 2007 after a discussion with Mayor Daniel Dickey and Alderman Dennis Pardick about "what Gibson City needed."
Other volunteer organizers include Denny Troyer, Dave Schmidt, Tony Denney and Sharon Craig. It has taken the group and community supporters most of the two years to raise money for the project.
Craig said around $125,000 was raised. More than half of that came from donations by veterans and family members, community fund-raising events, and a $50,000 grant from the Gene and Helen Hool Trust.
The design by Pontiac Granite Company consists of five vertical markers made from black granite. There are also granite benches and gray bricks, which are engraved with names of contributors. The site is handicap-accessible, with concrete sidewalks surrounding it.
Ferguson said it was important that the memorial be permanent and of high quality. He said a former listing of veterans' names was painted on a piece of plywood in the early 1970s and located under the city's downtown water tower. Ferguson noticed the board had disappeared and a lengthy search of municipal storage areas failed to uncover it.
"You don't have to like war," Ferguson said, "But we need to support and honor our troops."
Nearly 500 names have filled the front side of the markers and paver bricks. There is room for another 360 names on the back side, which can be engraved on site, and additional donations and name submissions are welcome. Ferguson praised Schmidt, who verified veterans' names and kept track of where each personalized brick was to be laid. Roger Cramer, owner of Ropp's Flower Factory, donated and installed the landscaping, and Baillie Rentals donated the use of a sod cutter.
Drummer Township Cemetery donated land for the site, and will take over permanent management of the memorial.
As the cemetery's supervisor, Ferguson has seen his share of military graveside honors. He said he'll never forget the valor of a senior veteran, the late Junior Mohart of Gibson City.
He said although Mohart was weak and on oxygen therapy, he stood at attention for an entire honor guard ceremony. "He nearly passed out by the time it was over, but he wasn't about to let on that anything was wrong," Ferguson said. "That's the kind of amazing sense of duty I wanted to honor."