The dedication of Fennimore’s Memorial Park is less than two weeks away. Memorial Park will be dedicated on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 1 p.m.
Retired brigadier general Richard Lofthouse will serve as keynote speaker. The dedication will begin with the raising of the flags by members of Whitish-Funk American Legion Post No. 184. The Fennimore High School band will perform the national anthem and America the Beautiful. Members of Whitish-Funk American Legion Post No. 184 will provide a 21 gun salute, which will be followed by a performance of “Taps” by bugler Richard Hanson.
A generous donation from the Lendosky Acts of Kindness Family Fund earlier this year has made the Memorial Park dedication possible.
With the support of area residents and business places, plus donations from 18 states from people with former ties to Fennimore, fundraising efforts have met the Committee’s $160,000 goal.
Twenty-five new pavers were installed last fall and more were placed this spring.
“All of the pavers that have been ordered are in the park. They are all up to date,” Memorial Park Committee co-chair Merry Cooley said. “Anyone can order a paver at anytime, but obviously now they won’t be in place in time for the dedication.”
Ten China Black upright tablets will be placed on the cement bases in the center of the Memorial Park’s pathway. These tablets will contain the names of more than 1,700 Fennimore area veterans, living and dead, depicting the era in which they served from the War of 1812 to the current War on Terrorism.
Each tablet will be three to four feet wide and five to six feet tall, and will show a picture etching pertaining to that era. One tablet will contain the names of all major and special recognition donors.
“I think when people see this thing they are just going to be in awe,” Cooley said. “That we as little Fennimore have pulled this off. I think it will take their breath away.”
A published report earlier this month stated the Memorial Park is considered hallowed ground and only should be a place of gathering during military and veterans services or specific holidays.
Members of the Memorial Park Committee sought to clarify that during the Fennimore Common Council’s semi-monthly meeting on Monday night, Aug. 22.
“This park is not for recreational purposes, as our title stone states as you walk into the park, it says, Fennimore Memorial Park,” Memorial Park Committee Co-Chair Dagna Doan said. “Therefore I have gone under the guidelines through the veteran’s administration. It is a place for gathering, the public is very welcome, everybody is welcome, but to hold a social function in there is not according to cemetery guidelines.
“We hope the public doesn’t misconstrue this. It is open to the public. We want people to enjoy it. All we ask is they pay reverence and respect to it.”
Mayor Ryan Boebel told Doan the request for reverence and respect was understood, but that there is a difference between a park and a cemetery.
"I think that might be the whole kicker on all of it,” he said.
“It may be now, but I think once the veteran’s tablets are installed, the whole community will distinguish the difference,” she said. “I am hoping that.”
As the Memorial Park is on City property, it is governed by Section 18.055 of the City’s Municipal Code, “Park Regulations.”
Cooley reiterated the Memorial Park Committee’s position during an interview with the Times on Monday morning.
“This is your park,” she said. “This isn’t the American Legion or American Legion Auxiliary’s park, this is Fennimore’s Memorial Park and every citizen in this town has a right to enjoy and come.”
What may or may not happen in the Memorial Park became a topic of discussion when Dennis Lester planned to perform several pieces from “1776 Revisited,” which he compiled and arranged, in the Park on the Fourth of July. He was informed he could not and instead performed in the area adjacent to the Memorial Park on the Fourth of July.
The Memorial Park walkway was cordoned off with yellow tape during a flea market last month and the Back to School Drive and Business Showcase earlier this month, but not by members of the Memorial Park Committee.
“The yellow tape was just a bad occurrence that never should have happened but it did,” Cooley said. “They were just doing what they thought they had to do, which was, ‘No one could enter that part during the Back to School event.’
“You don’t want to build a park and have nobody come. That is just crazy.”
This month’s dedication is the culmination of a journey that began with a $100 donation.
“I just don’t think people realize what is going to come, what is going to be there and how wonderful it is going to look,” Cooley said. “And all those people that speculated and said ‘You will never do it. It will never happen,’ are going to be really surprised and awed.”