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Gleason Dedicates Memorial Wall at Mike Snider Park

 

Jim Johnson

GleasonOnline. Com

The long awaited Memorial Wall at Mike Snider Park was dedicated on Saturday, September 2nd as part of the 2017 Tater Town Special festivities. 

The wall, sponsored by the Gleason Downtown Revitalization Program under the leadership of President, Charles Anderson received initial approval by the Gleason Board of Mayor and Alderman on April 14th, 2016.

As initially conceived, this wall was seen as a way of remembering the rich history of Gleason as it relates to the people who have lived here since its founding. It was seen as a way of allowing cherished family members, civic, business and educational leaders, along with other outstanding citizens of Gleason to receive the recognition they deserve for their contributions to the Gleason community over the years.

Representatives of the Gleason Downtown Revitalization Committee and the Gleason Rotary Club participated in a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, May 27th, 2016.

 

The location of the wall is near the main walkway to the park, in the vicinity of the children's play area. The wall is some 80 feet in length, with landscaped brick flower boxes on each end and in the center of the wall. The center flower box features a 40-foot tall flagpole proudly flying a large 8' by 12' American flag.

Special sections above the flower boxes at each end of the wall each contain 108 Black Granite Memorial Stones (approximately 4 x 7 inches in size) that serve to remember family members and others who have made significant contributions to the Gleason community over the years or who have, in one way or the other, provided significant support for the wall. A smaller section in the middle of the wall is reserved for Memorial stones for those who have served in the military.

As President Charles Anderson has frequently noted here and on other occasions, the success of this project was, in large part, due to the support of both the Gleason business community and the support of Gleason citizens.

He has noted that the Boral Brick Company of Gleason provided some 8,000 bricks for the construction of the wall and that concrete for the foundation of the wall was provided by Gleason Clay Company.

In addition to this important support from Gleason businesses, the construction of this wall was also made possible due to the contributions of skilled Gleason residents who freely donated their time and talent to this major undertaking.

Notable in this regard was Gleason resident Darrell Bell who took the primary role in laying the brick for the wall from the beginning to the end of its construction; David Hopper also contributed to this effort during the early stages of this process. Darrell also did all of the brick work for the new Mike Snider Park sign that is located across from the Gleason Community Center, on the road leading to the park.

 Another who also donated his time and skills to the completion of the wall was Ross Chandler. Mr. Chandler, owner of Gleason’s Performance Steele was responsible for helping put together the 40 foot flagpole and attaching the ropes and other internal equipment necessary to raise and lower the flag. He then used an auger to dig the 4-foot hole containing the large metal underground sleeve, designed to secure and stabilize the flagpole. Using heavy equipment he then raised the flagpole and positioned it so the area around the underground sleeve could be firmly set in place with concrete. Early on, a number of other Gleason residents were also involved in preparing to lay the foundation for the wall and for the concrete work that was later involved.

Also noteworthy is the large number of citizens of Gleason and various community groups that supported this endeavor by purchasing memorial stones to honor family members as well as other individuals who have made significant contributions to this Gleason community over the years and deserve being remembered.

The formal dedication of the wall began with some initial welcoming remarks, by President Anderson, and an opening prayer which was offered by Chief of Police, Jeff Hazelwood.

This opening was followed by the National Anthem, sung by Mr. Charles Ross with Keith Dunning also providing a beautiful rendition of God Bless the USA.

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Caitlin and Connor Cook and a tribute to the Military and those in Uniform, was presented by Mr. Steve Jones.

This was followed by additional remarks by President Anderson, where he dealt in somewhat more detail with the early beginnings of the wall and expressed his appreciation for those businesses and individuals whose contributions made this wall a reality.

Midway through the dedication the crowd was treated with two low pass flyovers of an AirEvac Helicopter.

The next presenter, Jim Johnson, drew attention to the Flagpole and American Flag located in the middle section of the wall and the inscription on the plaque in front of the flagpole which reads: “Dedicated to the City of Gleason, in Memory of James B. (JB) Johnson (1911 – 1957) and Sally A. Johnson (1924 – 2004) by Jim, Gary, and David Johnson.

He indicated that both parents loved the City of Gleason and were actively involved with the Gleason community, his mother having been a member of the Gleason chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, and a Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church, and his father having been an Assistant Cashier at the Bank of Gleason, a Member of First Baptist Church of Gleason, the Gleason Masonic Lodge, Commander of the Gleason American Legion Post and a Veteran of World War II.

 .

Sadly, J.B. Johnson died at age 45, four months after having surgery for a malignant brain tumor. Not having insurance, due to a prior medical condition, no other income apart from his job, and being unable to work after the surgery, the family was in a very difficult situation financially.

Thankfully, the good people of Gleason were there for the family, in many ways, during that difficult time - as is so often the case, when people of Gleason are in need. In this instance, Mr. Bob Owen, Mr. M.E. Fanning, and Mr. Carl Parks (who at that time was President of the Bank of Gleason) got together and somehow were able to work things out so that the Bank was able to assist the family financially during the four months J.B. lived after the surgery.

After several months, when Sally decided that the family needed to move to Michigan where her family lived and there was no money for the move, Mr. Claude Steele came to the house one day and generously offered to use one of his Sweet Potato trucks to move the family to Michigan. He did what he said he would do -  refusing to take a cent for the move.

Jim indicated that these two examples, along with many other acts of kindness that were shown by others during this difficult time, not only represent how caring and supportive the people of Gleason were back in the middle to late 1950’s but how caring and supportive they still are today – when friends and neighbors are in need. This kind of caring for others, makes Gleason the type of town that people want to raise their children in and the kind of town that, even if they move away for whatever reason, they often choose to return!

The final event of the dedication ceremony was presented by Jim Phelps and 5 members of Rolling Thunder who nicely illustrated the “Missing Man” ceremony, in a way that would touch the heart of any patriotic American.

The Missing Man Ceremony is one which remembers and honors those soldiers who are missing-in-action and very poignantly conveys that the military will always honor their service, their sacrifice for our freedom, that soldiers left behind on the battle fields in foreign lands will never be forgotten, and that attempts to find them and bring them home are never-ending. 

The dedication of the wall was concluded with a heart-felt Benediction by Mr. Jacky Esch, a long-time honored resident of Gleason and one who has been a valued contributor to the work of the Gleason Downtown Revitalization Initiative. 

 

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