By Kristen Miller
KINGSTON, MN Each year, Kingston Mayor John Smith tries to do something that will improve the town of 161 residents. His most recent endeavor was the construction of the Kingston Veterans Memorial, located in the heart of town.
“We wouldn’t be sitting here today if it wasn’t for the veterans of our country,” Smith said, who began planning the project just over a year ago. Help also came from his wife, Sandy, and longtime Kingston residents, Dick and Julie Orn.
The Kingston City Council originally anticipated recieving grant money for financial support of the project. When that plan fell through, the city decided to seek donations and in-kind labor to bring their idea to fruition.
Smith, being a Vietnam veteran in the Navy, had done his homework by visiting various memorials. This allowed him to see what not to do, but also helped in the design process, as well.
Dick and Julie Orn donated the 50-foot-by-50-foot land on the corner of Highway 19 and 27, which had been the home of the former meat market.
This past April, after some land issues had been resolved and lawyer fees paid, construction was underway, Smith explained.
Sandy and Julie were instrumental in contacting roughly 300 families of veterans about ordering the pavers that lead up to the monument.
“When John started this project, I told him we would be lucky if we get 50 stones,” Sandy said.
They currently have sold 182 stones, which are engraved with the name of the veteran and the military branch in which they served. Stones are laid according to families, rather than in alphabetical order.
Pavers are 6-by-12 inches and 2.5 inches thick. They are made with black Minnesota granite and engraved by Ron Dietman, who lives north of Kingston.
For the construction of the memorial, Smith said he used as many local contractors as possible, including Ailie Construction out of Dassel for the cement labor. Knife River also donated toward the cement.
Landscaping around the monument will be done by members of Cornerstone Church, which also gave a monetary donation.
Landscaping materials and plants will be donated by Kirk Sodergren of Kingston.
Bonniwell Electric provided the electrical work to illuminate the monument.
“We have had really good support,” John said.
The memorial will also include donated benches.
Other donations were recieved, including the Kingston Lions Club donating flags, poles, and the installation for the memorial.
No public funds have been used, and more donations would be appreciated.
Though the project is not yet complete, the plan is to be finished by the antique car run Saturday, Aug. 13.
A dedication of the memorial will take place Saturday, Sept. 24 at 2 p.m., with lunch served at the Community Center following, and is open to the public.
John is very pleased with how the memorial is coming together and the support he has recieved throughout the project.
“I think we owe it to the veterans in the area to do it proud,” John said.
Stones are still available for $175, which includes engraving, by contacting Julie Orn at (320) 398-2688, Sandy Smith at (320) 398-8025, or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Payments and donations can be mailed to: City of Kingston, 30840 722nd Ave., Dassel, MN 55325. Make checks payable to the City of Kingston.