WINNEBAGO - The Veterans Memorial project in Winnebago has raised more than $41,000, and organizer Jerry Johannsen expects construction to begin around Memorial Day.
"I'm really happy the way it's going," he said. "I just want to thank everyone for helping out. This has been in my head for a long time. People have come through."
In early November, Johannsen had only $22,000 collected for the project, which is likely to cost nearly $60,000. Some people expressed doubts the memorial would become a reality, but donations began to arrive.
To add the name of a veteran, there is a charge of $200. Johannsen has had a number of people order a name and write a check for $300 or $400. The largest donation from one person was $2,000.
Businesses have chipped in as well.
Other money has come from hamburger feeds, silent auctions and a Winnebago Fire Department's fund-raiser. A Veterans Day pancake breakfast raised $1,400.
All that money means the project is on track.
"The granite was ordered before Christmas," Johannsen said.
A downpayment of more than $13,000 has been paid, with the balance due upon completion.
The jet-black stones will be shipped from overseas, because you "can't get the dark ones in the United States. The darker they are, the more expensive."
Johannsen ordered five stones. Four will have the names of the veterans, their years of birth, years of service and branches of service. So far, there are 75 names. Johannsen knows of another 50 that are eligible. Those interested can contact Johannsen to obtain a form, which must be filled out and turned in to City Hall.
The fifth stone will be in the shape of the state of Minnesota and feature an engraving, words of dedication to veterans, and the insignias of all military branches. There will be two benches of black granite, and Johannsen plans to add more in the future.
Johannsen expects the stones to be delivered in three to five months. Blue Earth Monument will do the engraving. Scott Robertson and Bret Osborne have offered to help with the construction necessary before the stones are placed.
Johannsen knows there will be ongoing expenses, such as American flags. The flags will be flown every day and will wear out over time and need to be replaced.
There's still a lot of work to do before the project is complete, but Johannsen can see his dream taking shape.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the finished project," he said. "We'll get there."