Lost veterans memorial to be revived in Two HarborsThanks to the efforts of volunteers and donations from Two Harbors High School alumni, a neglected veterans memorial will be revived in Two Harbors this summer.
By: Lareesa Sandretsky , Lake County News Chronicle
Three miles up County Highway 3 north of Two Harbors, an ornate gate stood in front of an overgrown forest. It was conceived to honor Lake County’s military veterans.
Years later, wooden crosses marked with the names of those who fought in combat rotted in front of the spruce trees that had been planted in their memory.
The forgotten forest on Legion Hill, far removed from the public, had ceased to be the proud memorial it had once been.
The memorial had been built in 1931 and dedicated in 1932, the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. The land was donated by Lake County and the project was conceived by the Defenders Welfare League and sponsored by the American Legion Post 109.
One spruce tree was planted for each deceased veteran, and a large elm tree was planted in the center of the forest in honor of Washington. Five thousand additional seedlings were planted. The wooden crosses were eventually placed in front of each tree with a veteran’s name and birth and death years, honoring those who served in the Indian Wars, Civil War, World Wars, Korean War and Vietnam War. As the years passed, the memorial forest was neglected and forgotten.
Two Harbors resident Jon Anderson, who was at the time a member of the board of the Lake County Historical Society, brought attention to the problem of the overgrown memorial in 1998. He asked the permission and help of the city and county to move the gate and pillars marked it to a more prominent location in the community. Lake County and the City of Two Harbors donated services to move the monument, but they encountered problems they hadn’t predicted.
“We thought we could just move the pillars,” Anderson said. “The footings were deep down so far that when they pulled it up, all the rock parts crumbled.”
Suddenly, an easy process had become a difficult and expensive one, Anderson said. The Lake County Historical Society had already dedicated its resources to other restoration projects, and the Legion and VFW posts didn’t have the money to support any rebuilding. Without the proper funding, the memorial reconstruction was put on indefinite hold and the gates and archway were placed in storage.
The Two Harbors High School Class of 1962, which will celebrate its 50th reunion this year, finally stepped up to sponsor the project.
The class calls it a gift to the community and in celebration of their reunion. Anderson is a member of the class, as is Gordy Anderson, president of the Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We just wanted to do something for the community that would be in remembrance of those who gave their lives,” Gordy Anderson said.
The Class of 1962 has a special connection to the memorial, as many of its members served in the Vietnam War.
“Back when we were young, we all had to serve,” Jon Anderson said. “We are all close to the cause and thought it would be a great project to honor our 50th anniversary.”
Through the donation of funds from the “Nifty Crew of Sixty-two” and the Two Harbors Area Fund, as well as donations of service and sponsorship from the American Legion, City of Two Harbors, Lake County, and Lake County Historical Society, the reconstruction along the Sonju Trail near Burlington Bay is expected to be finished by August.
The groups hope to dedicate the new memorial August 18, the date of the Two Harbors Block Party as well as the class reunion.
Local contractors will rebuild the pillars as well as design and create plaques explaining the purpose of the memorial and thanking its sponsors, which will displayed at the site. At this point, the names of each veteran will not be included in the memorial, but the list is available on a monument outside of the Lake County Courthouse in Two Harbors.
The memorial’s mission has changed slightly, as it will now honor only those killed in action rather than all veterans. White pines at the site, 51 in all, will be dedicated to each of the 46 Lake County residents who have been killed in action.
“We hope we never have to use all 51 trees,” Jon Anderson said.