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Gene Vande Lune heads up veteran’s memorial

Published: Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 11:12 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 12:07 p.m. CST

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“I’d been around, and a lot of other towns had a memorial to the veterans. Prairie City didn’t have anything like that, and I knew it’d be a good idea.”

Gene Vande Lune is a Prairie City resident, Army veteran from the Korean War, and the man responsible for much of the planning and implementation in securing a veteran’s memorial for the community.

Gene had heard about funds coming into several different community organizations as part of a community member’s will. Several churches, along with the Lion’s Club, were going to receive funding that they could use for various projects.

After the Lion’s Club, of which Gene is a member, had allocated funding to several different projects it was working on, there was still some money left over. He came forward and proposed the memorial in the town square.

“For a lot of people, like those in Korea and Vietnam, they didn’t get much recognition for what they did,” Gene said.

The memorial was a way to remedy that in Prairie City, helping to honor those that served, in any time period or conflict.

A committee was put together to help plan the memorial, and while Gene wasn’t on the committee, he was incredibly active in offering his advice and guidance to the project. After a while the reins of the project were handed over and in May of 2011, the Veterans Memorial was purchased from Watts Monument Co. and installed by them.

Gene saw the opportunity to continue raising funds for the project, as well as bestow individual recognition for community veterans, so he went about selling bricks.

He had determined that if 100 people were to buy a single brick at $100 each, that they would have enough funding to continue with the memorial. He put out a call to pledge in the paper and in no time he had 100. Then he had 120. Eventually he had right around 160 pledges, far exceeding his original goal.

“We’ve got the information and everything for around 150 of them so far,” Gene said. “We still have a few pledges that we’re waiting on.”

The memorial bricks being purchased represent a huge cross section of veterans, from those that are still on active duty in the services to long-dead POW and MIA veterans as well as the famous Herschel Briles from World War II.

“There’s applications in the grocery stores, the barber shop and the Roberts brothers,” Gene said. “There isn’t going to be an end. After they’re installed, people can still sign up to get a brick.”

Although the application process will be ongoing, Gene hopes that people will try to get them in before the bricks are placed in the spring of 2014. After that they will have to wait until there are 10 applications at a time for the engravers to come out, which could take significantly longer.

Applications for Prairie City area veterans and donations to the project can be sent to PO Box 1, Prairie City, IA. 50228.

Staff writer Matt Nosco may be contacted at (515) 674-3591 or at mnosco@newtondailynews.com.

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