Hilgendorf Memorials Contracted to Provide The Granite Walls, Bases and Etchings

WAUPUN ~ The Waupun Area Veterans Memorial Wall, an ongoing community project, has just completed the 4th phase of the project when an additional fifth wall was put in place on October 1st, 2009. When the four existing walls became filled with veterans’ names due to overwhelming public input, more space was needed, since this was planned from the beginning to be a never-ending project, as veterans continue to serve our country in the future.

The wall project is a tribute to all Waupun area veterans who have served, or are now serving our country, since the War of 1812 to the current War on Terrorism and future hostilities. By Veterans Day 2009, there will be a total of 1,032 names of honorably discharged veterans engraved onto these five granite walls.  The walls have gained as much attention as the famous "End-of-the-Trail" statue standing only a few feet away in Shaler Park. People stop daily to read the names of Waupun area veterans, many of whom are still living. The walls are adjacent to the "Killed-in-action" Veterans Memorial Monument, and a water fountain sprays water in the background on the city mill pond, adjacent to the new Harris Mill Park. The wall project was officially begun in the fall of 2004, when project director, Gerald "Jerry" Heeringa, then commander of Getchel-Nelson American Legion Post 210, surveyed the community businesses, organizations, and private citizens to determine if they would support the project.

Their response was overwhelming. Jerry then enlisted the help of Frank Mesa, commander of   Bentley Hull VFW Post 6709, who became the project co-director. Together, they met with the city council to         request and receive approval for the project in its location in Shaler Park. The National Bank of Waupun was asked to serve as the treasurer for this ongoing project. Hilgendorf "Rock-of-Ages" Memorials of Grafton, Wisconsin was contracted to provide the granite walls, bases, and etchings for the project.  Frank Mesa (left) and Gerald "Jerry" Heeringa Fundraising then began from local businesses, organization, and private donors, plus those who wished to place veterans names on the walls.

The first phase of the project, installation of concrete foundation for the 20 ft. wall was completed in the fall of 2004. The concrete and labor was donated by area businesses. Delivery of the 20 ft. wall was unexpectedly postponed, however, until the spring of 2005 due to granite quarry problems. In the Spring of 2005, because of the overwhelming and somewhat unexpected interest in the project, the next phase was begun with the installation of the concrete foundations for two additional 10 ft. walls.  

In May 2005, both phase I and phase II walls were installed. The 20 ft. granite wall and base (weighing over 12-ton), and each 10 ft. wall (weighing over 6-ton each) were delivered from a granite quarry in Vermilion Bay, Ontario, Canada. Following the delivery of the walls, 420 names were engraved onto the 20 ft. wall prior to Memorial Day 2005. Additional names were added in July 2005. In addition, names were added to the phase II 10 ft. walls bringing the total names on the walls at that time to 750.  The project continued to increase with the addition of another 10 ft. phase III wall, and an additional 96 names were etched on the granite walls for a total of 846 names. Each 10 ft. wall holds 210 names.In May 2006, a podium and five flag poles, each signifying a different branch of the services, along with decorative stone and considerable landscaping, was added just prior to Memorial Day 2006. The message on the podium reads: "These memorial walls are a tribute to all the veterans of the Waupun area who have served from the War of 1812 to current and future hostilities." This message is intended to explain the purpose of the project and has been put in place facing the project.In 2007, the pledge of allegiance was added to the face of the podium, and an additional 41 veterans’ names were etched onto the wall for a then total of 887 names.Since that time, veterans’ names have been added to the walls twice yearly, prior to Memorial Day and prior to Veterans Day. With the fifth wall now in place, there is room for a total of 1,250 names on these Memorial Walls. Each engraved name includes the branch of service, period of service, and (optional) rank. The only requirement for placing a veteran's name on the wall is that the veteran's service was, or is, honorable. And there is no restriction on serving, whether in peace time or war time, or branch of service, and veterans can still be serving at this time.  

These Memorial Walls are a way to recognize all veterans, not just the fallen soldiers or the ones who served in combat.  The entire cost of this project, thus far, running near $149,000.00, with approximately 1/3rd of the cost covering the expense of the granite and the tedious task of engraving the names. However, the project is almost completely paid for. Approximately 1/3rd of the money has come from the veterans themselves, or from their friends and families for putting their names onto the walls. Besides the donation of cash, many businesses, organizations, and private donors donated materials and their services to the project. And some cash donations were even received from
out-of-state donors.

A DVD, entitled "The Video History of Waupun Area Veterans Memorial Wall Project", was produced by the media dept. of Waupun High School with Jerry Heeringa as narrator/advisor, and is available for a $10 donation.Forms with information for having a name placed on the wall are available at all five Waupun banks, both grocery stores, Waupun Culver's and the Waupun Chamber of Commerce.  For more information, contact Jerry Heeringa at 324-2641, or Frank Mesa at 324-4641. (Photos and story by Larry Duer, VFW Post 6709)Posted by Melinda Roberts at 5:00 AM