When Gary Stephenson came to the Jasper County Board of Supervisors in July, his mission was to get a copy of the 1934 Leoni Illuminated Constitution Lithograph in the courthouse. Thanks to rampant patriotism and generous sponsors locally, he accomplished this very quickly.
“I want to thank the board for allowing me to finish this,” Gary said. “I have finished now 61 counties and 62 courthouses in Iowa, which now have one of these prints.”
Gary has a goal of getting a print in all 100 of Iowa’s courthouses and plans to visit all 99 counties to make this happen. He took over the task from his father, who had placed prints of the famous lithograph in 25 courthouses before his passing.
With Jasper County checked off the list, the Stephensons have now knocked out 89 counties and 90 courthouses.
“We’re basically 10 courthouses away from finishing the whole state,” Gary said. “Basically, I want to thank the veterans (for doing this).”
Although Gary’s presentation to the county was done on Tuesday, he said he was actually ready to present last week but had another engagement. The print was privately donated and costs taxpayers no money. Gary went out in the community and collected donations to make the project happen.
Gary said he was able to finish thanks to sponsorships from Newton American Legion Post 111 and its associated groups, Lauterbach Buick-GMC, both Clemson-Maki and IIS Lureman/Steenhoek Insurance agencies, the Newton VFW and a very generous donation from Bret Doerring.
“The Doerring family, Bret Doerring, was very instrumental in helping finish this,” Gary said. “He gave me a call and said, ‘How many sponsors do you have?’ I said, ‘Four.’ He said, ‘I want to buy the rest.’ And then I got home, and I had a check from a law firm.”
Gary said Bret purchased six sponsorships, which fulfilled all that were needed, when the check from Walker, Billingsly & Bair came in the mail. He said he called Bret back and offered to return some of the money but said he was told to use it to purchase an easel for the print.
The print itself will be on display in the Jasper County Courthouse, although a final location has yet to be determined. The board wanted it to be in a very visible place so visitors can admire the print’s beauty, recognize the sponsors and read the message on the center plaque:
“Honoring veterans, their families and all who serve our county, past, present and future.”
Gary estimates by next summer he should be done and Polk County is still the final destination. His future plans are still in the works once he finishes, but the people of Jasper County left a positive impression on him.
“They’re just like all people in Iowa,” Gary said. “Friendly, salt of the earth, hardworking, and patriotic as far I’m concerned. Basically, very down-to-earth people.”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.