SPOONER, Wis. -- If you’ve ever visited Washington D.C., you’ll agree that our capital and its various monuments are quite classy, each wall or figure testifying to the pride shared by those who designed and installed them, and those who maintain them.
Today you don’t have to travel far to witness this same class. The State Cemetery on highway 53 comes to mind with its beautifully landscaped grounds and tasteful buildings. The Waterfront Park in Spooner on highway 63, better known as the Veteran’s Memorial Park, is as pristine and tasteful as any in D.C. as it sits proudly welcoming visitors with its military-based life size statues, its walls of veteran’s names and flags flying.
This committee of nine has taken on another challenge, to create another space next to their original project in Memorial Park that will house the breathtakingly beautiful replica of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
This 16 x 22- foot replica is currently being housed in Madison waiting for its new home in Spooner, but like most things worth waiting for, it will be a bit before the grand unveiling.
According to Jim Dienstl, head of the committee and a Navy flyer, five years active and 22 years reserve, their committee doesn’t do anything unless it’s paid for beforehand. And this new undertaking will need all the cleverness they can come up with, seeing the replica will need to be somehow protected from the brutal winter elements of the northland.
Now that a spot at the Park has been established where no trees will have to be cut or moved, the City of Spooner, who own the property, is ready to do all the necessary pre-work to make the site suitable, from digging out the soil for the base and sidewalks to readying the electricity so the monument can be lighted 24/7/365.
But still waiting at the gate is Cooper Engineering who is already working on site plans, but has not been officially hired, due to a shortage of initial funds.
The Veteran’s Service Office has started a Go Fund Me page and is slowly beginning to collect money, but until the site plans are officially made and DNR approval was given, there can only be estimates on the final costs to bring the monument to Spooner which will include bids on concrete, electricity, sidewalks and landscaping, which might include cold-hearty cherry trees to replicate the ones in D.C.
The Veteran’s Memorial Committee paid for their first project, which was dedicated in June 2004, through flag sponsors who pay $250 to $350 every three years to replace one of the large flags, to the almost four thousand veteran’s names that have strong ties to Spooner and whose names are on the walls and floor and benches. They also rely on donations from the public and the many volunteers who work tirelessly in order to maintain the grounds during spring clean up and putting it all to bed in the fall.
Happily, the Spooner school students come out each spring to help with the cleaning, even to washing the walls of names as part of the school’s community service program.
To carry through the authenticity of the original monument, which is guarded 24 hours a day all year by military personnel, the committee is considering ordering another statue, like the ones they already have for their first project, but this one would be “on guard” at the tomb.
They have left no stone unturned and plan to work as the money comes in. Meanwhile, Veteran Service Office employees, Ella Parker and Lisa Powers, the one who initially found the memorial, are hard at work on the fund-raising side of this venture through Go Fund Me.
But that’s not the only way you can contribute to the project. An account has been set up at the Bank of the West, #048390233, or checks can be left at, or mailed to the Veteran’s Service Office at 1600 County Highway H or given to one of the committee members.
It would be nice to know exactly how much will be needed for this project, and even though most of the costs can be roughly estimated, many of them being donated or serious discounts were given, there is no clue as to the cost for whatever can be created to ensure the tomb’s weather-resistant longevity; be it some type of protective housing like a Plexiglas ‘bubble’ or some compound that can be applied directly to the replica. That’s the key that could tip the balance into major money.
Either way, the monument will be ready for dedication by next spring. And it will be beautiful. And it will bring people into the area. And it will be a place to reflect and remember those who never came home and the lives that were changed forever.
For more information, contact the Veteran Service Office at 715-635-4470 or Jim Dienstl, 715-635-.8661
Back row, L-R: Jim Casler, Kenneth Rouse, John Leckel, Terry McNitt, not pictured: Thea Kronlund
Front row, L-R: Ron "Rosco" Bowers, Jim Dienstl, Pete Hubin, Betty Hubin