Ely Area Veterans Memorial to be dedicated

by Tom Coombe -

Started as an idea scribbled out on a napkin in a local coffee shop, the Ely Area Veterans Memorial quickly took hold in the community.
August 12 organizers will mark the completion of the project with a dedication event.
An Aug. 12 ceremony, at the memorial site near the Trezona Trail, serves as one of the final milestones in an effort to recognize and remember all veterans, from the Spanish-American War up to the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The dedication begins at 2 p.m. and will feature an address by David Merhar, a retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Army and a West Point graduate.
Since groundbreaking ceremonies held on Memorial Day, 2016, the project has evolved quickly.
Over $80,000 was raised to erect the memorial and complete other site work, bringing Dick Zahn’s concept to reality.
Zahn, chairman of the Ely Area Veterans Memorial Committee, a veteran and a longtime advocate for veterans’ causes and organizations, said he came up with the idea one day at Front Porch Coffee and Tea.

“I was sitting at coffee one day and thinking about a memorial, and then I figured I don’t want it to look like every other memorial in the country,” said Zahn. “Nine times out of 10 you see the same thing. I wanted something different in my mind. So I drew it out on a napkin in the Front Porch.”
Zahn took his idea, and a wooden model he made, to City Hall and the city council got on board.
City officials agreed to set aside the location near the Trezona and fundraising took off, with a combination of special events, in-kind services and contributions from individuals, groups and businesses putting the project together.
Portions of the memorial note the service of veterans by the various conflicts, although by design no individual names are listed, except for the seven Elyites who were participants in the World War II Bataan Death March.
The dedication next weekend will include remarks from Ely Mayor Chuck Novak, and the event serves as a passing of the torch of sorts.
“We’re turning it over to the city, so to speak,” said Zahn. “It does belong to the city. It’s their property.”
Zahn said the city, with the aid of clerk-treasurer Harold Langowski, was a key ally in the project. He also credited vice-chair Tony Colarich and Nick Mattila with their efforts in raising money for the project.
Other memorial committee members are Jerritt Johnston, Matt Litherland, Bob Niskala, Tom Lannon and Mike Pope.
Zahn will emcee the dedication, which will also include an invocation and benediction from veteran Angus McDonald of Ledgerock Church, and the playing of bagpipes by Joe Linneman.
Jay Mackie will sing the national anthem while the Ely Color Guard will be on hand to honor the service of veterans. Ron Forsman will play taps.
Those who attend the ceremony are urged to bring their own chairs.
While the project has come to an end, fundraising isn’t completely over.
Zahn said there are ongoing expenses associated with maintaining the memorial, as well as money needed for the purchase and replacement of flags that will be flown from Memorial Day through Veterans Day.
Contributions may be made to the Ely Area Veterans Memorial and brought to City Hall.