Minnesota Legion post approaching goal of restoring three community veterans memorials
In summer of 2021, American Legion Post 150 in Waconia, Minn., set for itself a lofty goal of raising $199,000 to renovate two monuments and a Civil War cannon in its community over a period of three years. But thanks to a successful fundraising effort, Post 150 is ahead of schedule and has plans on finishing up every renovation in just over two years.
Post 150 First Vice Commander Joe Gifford, the project team leader, said more than $202,000 has been raised so far. Because of how quickly the money was able to be raised, the restoration of Waconia’s World War I Veterans Monument was completed in May of 2022, while the cannon is expected to be completed by this May. The city’s Civil War Soldiers Monument is the final leg of the project and is expected to have its renovation completed by November of this year.
“The project started in about the July, August timeframe of 2021,” Gifford said. “The objective for the project was to do one monument a year for three years, and our expectations have been greatly exceeded. We’re way ahead of schedule.”
Gifford said the idea to launch the restoration project came about when a member of Post 150 who lives across from City Square Park, where the monuments reside, would walk through the park daily. “His great-grandfather’s name is actually on the monument,” Gifford said. “He thought it was starting to look a little weathered. He brought it to my attention (and) we took it to (the post’s) executive committee. When we took a hard look at everything, we realized the Civil War cannon was in bad shape, the Civil War Soldiers Monument was in really bad shape, and they needed a lot of love. So, we decided if we were going to do a fundraising project, that we would try to tackle all three monuments at the same time.”
All three of the objects have undergone restorations over the years, but the age of each required more effort this time. The 32-pounder chambered Navy cannon was built in 1846 and acquired by Waconia in 1897, while the Civil War Soldier Soldiers Monument was dedicated in 1892. Meanwhile, the World War I Veterans Monument was dedicated in 1929.
Knowing it would need a substantial amount of money, Post 150 first reached out to other American Legion posts in Carver County, as well as other service organizations, fire departments and Chambers of Commerce. “We met with all of them,” Gifford said. “Through the course of those actions, that effort raised around $125,000 to $130,000.”
The post also was able to obtain multiple grants, as well as a donation from Waconia city officials. There also were donations from individuals.
With its successful effort, Post 150 already is planning rededication ceremonies for all three monuments. The current goal is to hold a ceremony for the World War I Veterans Monument and the cannon during this year’s Memorial Day service in City Square Park. Plans for the rededication ceremony of the Civil War Soldiers Monument have yet to be finalized.
To educate the public even more about the monuments, the restoration project includes placing interpretative signs around each of them to provide some context.
Gifford said Post 150’s successful effort was a team effort. “We’re extremely proud of the effort. We’re proud of our community as a whole supporting this,” he said. “It speaks to the Americanism of it. Our view of it is that these monuments are extremely important to remind people of the cost of freedom and what it takes to have the country that we have today.
“We see that as one of our missions to make sure that things that help our community remember what it means to have a free country and what it takes to actually achieve that, it’s very, very important. Now, when people look at these monuments, they’ll have more information in their hands than they ever have before. It’s not going to just be a monument. It’s also going to also teach some of the history behind them.”