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Ready to build it

By Staff | Jun 2, 2013

It will be done by Moto Fest,” Gerald ‘Jerry’ Johannsen says. “It has to be. We are having the dedication on Aug. 4.”

Johannsen is referring to the new Winnebago Veterans Memorial that will be built in the park near the Winnebago Community Center along Highway 169.

What started as just an idea in 2011 will soon become a reality.

Last Thursday afternoon Johannsen and his five-member committee realized their dream when they held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the new memorial.

They are about a year ahead of schedule.

“We have a lot of the $60,000 we need in donations and pledges, so we can proceed now,” Johannsen says. “We should start on the actual construction in another week or two depending on the weather.”

Johannsen quickly adds that more donations are needed.

“We don’t have final figures on the cost of berm work, electrical and cement work,” he says. “So we are still accepting any and all donations.”

The Winnebago Area Museum and Winnebago library are both making contributions this week.

“The veterans themselves have been our biggest contributors,” he says. “Many give us way more than the $200 cost to have a name put on the granite block walls.”

At first, Johannsen only ordered three granite blocks. But, in January he ordered one more. And, they are already getting enough names to start using the fourth block.

“We are at 260 names right now,” he says. “We are also planning for space for two additional blocks, should they ever be needed.”

Johannsen says it took a while to get the first 50 names. But, once people realized that this project was more than just a dream, the names and the dollars started flowing in.

The committee has money on hand to pay for the granite blocks, earth work, lights and more.

“But, I keep adding more things to the project, too,” Johannsen admits. “Just last week I ordered a nice black wrought iron fence to put behind the monument, to separate it from the area in the back.”

He is pretty confident he will be able to get the necessary funds for everything for the project.

He has been working hard on the memorial since August 2011 when he first proposed the idea to the Winnebago City Council.

“I was flabbergasted when they immediately said yes to the idea without any hesitation,” he recalls. “I went home and told my wife ‘Looks like we are going to build a Veterans Memorial.’ She was stunned too.”

He quickly formed a core committee to help him get the project off the drawing board and into reality.

Those committee members include Jerome Behnke, Leanne Eastman, Ed Kellen, Karen Hernandez and of course, Johannsen himself.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” he says. “But, the memorial will for sure be done by Aug. 4. Has to be.”