Raffle to raise funds for veterans memorial

WINNEBAGO – The Veterans Memorial in Whiting Park started as Jerry Johannsen’s dream about two years ago.

He envisioned a place to honor Winnebago’s military veterans, a dream that became a reality when ground was broken last month. Construction is well under way, and an upcoming raffle is planned to help pay for the project.

“We poured the first cement (Wednesday) and the second (Thursday),” Johannsen said.

Winnebago residents Bret Osborn and his crew prepped the ground, and Richard Anderson, Chris Anderson and Scott Robertson brought in workers to do the cement and get everything ready for the stones and other equipment to be placed.

The memorial will have a total of seven stones: a feature stone engraved with the emblems of the branches of the military; five stones engraved with the names of those who served; and a stone for the Gold Star recipients. A Gold Star designates a veteran who died in service.

“Everything’s been ordered,” Johannsen said. “The original stones are full (of names) and we’re ordering more stones.”

He originally ordered only three name stones, then sold out the space on the fourth one.

“A few people have bought names for the fifth one,” he added. Names will be added once a year in the future.

He needs so many stones because he’s gotten 320 names.

“For them to get 320 names is fantastic, far surpassing what I thought we’d get,” Johannsen said.

In addition to the stones, Johannsen wants benches, so visitors can sit and contemplate the park and the people honored there.

“The flag poles are coming. Light poles are ordered,” he said. “Get them in, then we have landscaping. I got a wrought-iron fence to put in along the back.”

He’s hoping the weather holds because he has a lot to accomplish in little more than a month.

“We’re shooting for Aug. 4 for the dedication, with a meal to follow,” Johannsen said. “I think we’ll have a big bunch of people.”

He’s still taking contributions because the park will have ongoing expenses for upkeep. He also plans to engrave the names of contributing businesses on a marker “in recognition of those who donated.”

He’s grateful for all the help.

“I want to thank everybody who’s contributed so far,” he said.

The raffle for the memorial offers people a chance to win a kid-sized John Deere Gator, a 40-inch flatscreen TV, a chest freezer, and a processed hog. Tickets are $5 each.

The drawing is set for 10 p.m. Saturday during the Winnebago Fire Department’s 125th anniversary dance, which is part of Craft Brew Fest. Winners do not need to be present to win.

Tickets are available from any Veterans Memorial committee member or at Brew Fest.