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A focal point in the community is due for a makeover

Oxford American Legion seeks donations for new Veterans Memorial
The Veterans Memorial in Oxford is showing the effects of time and plans are underway to replace it. The Oxford American Legion Post 537 has been fundraising for approximately a year and continues to seek donations and grants for the project. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

OXFORD– The Veterans Memorial in Oxford stands for all who have honorably served in the armed forces of the United States. Like many veterans, it has seen good times and bad, and has stood in the face of adversity.
But Oxford’s memorial has lost some of its luster and Oxford American Legion members have banded together to raise funds for a new one.
The current memorial replaced a wooden monument which bore the names of Oxford’s veterans placed some 25-30 years ago, possibly even 40, depending on who you ask.
Jo Anne Downes is on the memorial committee. She served during the Vietnam War as a nurse, and for part of her time in Vietnam was assigned to a field hospital supporting the 1st Cavalry Division. Time and Iowa’s weather has not been kind to the memorial, Downes said, with several large cracks having formed in the concrete over the years.
Weeds have sprouted in some of the cracks, she explained. “It’s just kinda crumbling as water gets in the cracks and freezes, and there’s a big line across the front.”
The current memorial will eventually be removed with a new memorial placed on the same Main Street site across from the Legion Post. Some pieces of the current memorial will be saved and incorporated into the new one, including five emblems representing each branch of the service.
“Those were donated by Harry Eister’s family (Eister was a paratrooper in WWII), so we have incorporated those on five stones,” Downes said. A pole flying each branch’s flag will stand behind each stone.
Another piece of the current memorial, a metal representation of the American flag, will also be incorporated.
“One of our Legion members purchased the flag, so we are going to save it,” Downes said. “We had to make sure that this piece (a large, five-sided stone) was big enough.”
Steve Crow, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War and Oxford Legion member, pointed out the flag, made with copper, was fabricated in Amana. “That kind of stuff, we want to preserve,” Crow said.
The committee also hopes to retain and reuse the flagpole behind the current memorial. “That has been through straight winds and it has proved itself,” Downes said. “We’re hoping that somehow we can still use that, because that will be right in the middle. That’s an impressive flag. Whoever was behind that really knew what they were doing.”
Three emblems will be purchased and installed below the copper flag: one each for the Legion, the Sons of the American Legion, and the Women’s Auxiliary.
“We work very closely, and are so fortunate to have an active Sons of the Legion,” Downes said. “They have a lot of the bags tournaments, the card tournaments, and they’re very good and they are helping us raise money.” The Women’s Auxiliary, she explained, has the farmer’s market, bake sales and purchased the Legion’s gambling license. “We really need all three of us to work together. And then it was like, oh boy, now we’re going to take on a memorial,” she said. “So we’re going to give it a good try, I think we’ll get it done, I don’t know how long it’ll take, but we have kind of a rough estimate.”
The estimate started around $29,000 and jumped to $35,000 as a few more things were added. The final price may well be even more depending on a variety of factors.
As of Nov. 2, Crow put the amount raised at a little over $11,000, or roughly one-third of the goal. Add to that $650 people had given to Downes. “It’ll keep growing,” she said. The committee is also actively seeking grants to fund the project.
Fundraising began approximately a year ago, on a small scale. Now that plans have been drawn up, and with an estimate in-hand, the committee is making a larger push for donations.
“It took a long time to get this drawing,” Downes said. The committee appreciates the help it’s received from MMS Consultants, a civil engineering firm in Iowa City. As plans become finalized, MMS will come up with a definitive cost estimate. Eric Zangerle with Marengo Monuments is also working closely with the committee. “He has done monuments for veterans and cemeteries,” Downes said. “And I was impressed. He does a good job and cares. He’s the one who gave us our idea.”
One issue with the current site, beyond some drainage issues, is the presence of an abandoned well, which would need to be filled in and/or capped; an approximately $2,000 expenditure. Legion members likely will do some of the site work themselves, saving money on the project, and will also seek donations of materials or labor.
The Legion sponsors a Memorial Day parade in addition to visiting seven cemeteries to hold ceremonies. The Legion also participates in the Memorial Day ceremony at the West Overlook of the Coralville Dam (home to the Johnson County Veterans Trail) and also sends members to the final ceremony of the day at the historic Sutliff Bridge. Oxford is also home to a 4th of July parade with the Citizen of the Year announced in front of the memorial by a Legion member.
The Legion works closely with local Boy Scouts, Downes said. “When you talk to kids and say, ‘My dad was a vet,’ and ‘Jo Anne is a vet,’ they’ll say, ‘Oh, you take care of dogs and cats when they’re sick,’ because it’s not known. And that’s another reason I think (the memorial) is so important. Kids have to be taught patriotism, and why we have the memorial, and why we have the Memorial Day parade, and why we fire the guns (in salute). So when a town has something like that, that’s how you teach them and pass it on.”
Donations can be sent to: Oxford American Legion Post 537 Memorial, P.O. Box 189, Oxford, IA 52322. Questions can be directed to JoAnne Downes (319-330-5302), Steve Beckler (319-321-3870), Carey Tandy (319-461-4448) or Steve Crow (319-855-9696).
“We consider it the focal point of our town,” Downes said, noting Oxford and the surrounding area still have people with relatives who served, or are currently serving. “I think with a lot of community support, we’ll get it done.”

Legion news

The Oxford Sons of the American Legion are hosting a Pork Raffle, with the drawing to be held on Veterans Day, Sunday, Nov. 11. The Sons are raffling off two halves of a hog (two winners, one half apiece). Tickets are available at the Legion bar or through an Oxford Sons of the American Legion member, and cost $5 each or five for $20. Call 319-828-1008 for more information.
The Oxford American Legion presents an All You Can Eat Breakfast Sunday, Nov. 18, from 7:30 a.m. to noon featuring scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, sausage patties, ham, pancakes, French toast, biscuits and sausage gravy, mushrooms, cheese sauce and sweet rolls. The cost is $8 for adults.
The Oxford American Legion Auxiliary presents its annual Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Girls Scholarship Silent Auction on Sunday, Nov. 18, from 7:30 a.m. until noon. One hundred percent of the proceeds goes to the CCA Girls Scholarship with the pay out per scholarship being $500.