Legion Benefits from Cemetery Gift

By Jill Fennema –

Every Memorial Day, the local members of the American Legion set up over 200 flag poles at Hillside Cemetery in Edgerton. This is a lot of work because the flag poles are two 10 foot poles that need to be put together and the flag raised.

Because our American Legion and Auxiliary numbers are dwindling, the members of these organizations ask for help from the public for putting up and taking down the flags. About five years ago, Norm and Ethelyn Fey were helping with this process, and Norm commented at the time that they should leave the poles together in one piece, rather than always taking them apart.

However, that didn’t work at the time because the shed that the poles were stored in was too small for 20 foot poles. He commented at that time that he would help pay for a new building that was large enough for longer poles. But no one took him up on his offer.

Another part of the work involved with the Memorial Day program was carrying 10 wooden cases of flags from the Runals Memorial Hall and lugging them down the stairs so they could be hauled to the cemetery. All of this was back-breaking work.

This past May, the Legion decided to contact the Feys about their offer, which they agreed to do. That set in motion a plan for a new building. A committee of Legion Commander Abe Westenberg, Jerold Schoolmeester, and Bruce Fraser began working on the plan. They worked with the Osborne Township Board, who owns the cemetery land and takes care of it.

They also consulted with Sue Post, the sexton of the cemetery. She keeps track of where people are buried. In the past five or six years since she began working at that position, she has been computerizing the records and made a map and record book of the cemetery.

The new building was recently completed by Greg Arp Construction. It is located at the southern edge of the cemetery. Right now it is behind a row of evergreen trees that were planted along the railroad back when the railroad still came through town. The building has been placed on what once was the railroad bed and more recently was the southern loop of the cemetery road. In a few weeks those pine trees will be taken down, as they have reached the end of their lifespan and are looking quite ragged. The new road will be put in to loop in front of the building.

The building is 20 feet by 26 feet, large enough to hold two trailers and the township mowers.

One of the trailers was donated by Larry Ryswyk and has been modified to hold the 200-plus flag poles. The other wagon belonged to the Legion and is used to haul the 11 wooden boxes that hold the 215 American flags – one for each of our local area veterans who have passed away. This trailer was modified using wood that was donated by Stan Prins of Leota.

Last week Friday, Feys presented a check for the building to the American Legion. Members of the township and American Legion were on hand for the donation. At that time, Westenberg thanked the Feys for their generosity.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you very much for the gift that you gave,” he said. “We could not have done this without your support.”

The Feys commented that they are glad to see the new building, which they realize will help make the work of Legion members and volunteers much easier.

Osborne Township also put some money towards the building so that an overhang could be added. They plan to put a map on the north side of the building where people can stand out of the weather and examine where their ancestors or other loved ones are buried.

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Jerold Schoolmeester and Abe Westenberg accept a donation check from Norm and Ethelyn Fey for the new cemetery building.

The new building at the cemetery became a reality after a donation. Pictured are Sexton Sue Post, Legion members Jerold Schoolmeester and Abe Westenberg, Norm and Ethelyn Fey, and Osborne Township representatives Rod Spronk and Mike Vander Pol.