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Wall created as proper tribute to vets

SHELDON, Wis. -- The Wall of Honor tribute at the Sheldon Community Center contains more pictures of military veterans than the number of people who live in this rural Rusk County community.

In an effort spearheaded by Ron Grzeszkowiak and his wife, Jolanta, there are now 325 photographs on display, compared with 237 village residents, according to 2010 census figures.

Ron, a member of the Army's 82nd airborne division in the Korean War, said the project came to mind last May after viewing a "not so good" military veterans tribute at a discount store.

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"It looked terrible, and I thought I could do that," he recalled. "I do some woodworking and I thought I could make the frames and things, but that would have gotten way too costly."

With the permission of the Sheldon Community Center board, walls were constructed to hold photos of the living and deceased veterans with area ties.

"The first thing was everybody thought it should be at the American Legion Hall, but that hall is only open one day a month for a meeting and we wanted to do something more; to make it more available," Ron said.

The Grzeszkowiaks said they initially thought they would cover the costs for the wall construction, frames and other items on their own.

"One woman asked my wife if I'd gotten a grant for it and how we were going to pay for it," Ron said. "We started out doing it on our own, but the lovely people around here didn't allow that. They went out and got a lot of donations and it worked out well."

"If it wasn't for Jolanta and Ron, this wouldn't be here," Izdepski said. "I enjoy history and it was fun to learn more about the soldiers and other things connected to them."

Izdepski, Marian Dernovsek and Jolanta created four binders packed with stories and photos of those pictured on the walls in identical 5-by 7-inch frames.

"It all just kind of evolved," Izdepski said. "As we got going on this, there were times I would almost spend a whole day on the phone talking with people to learn more about the soldiers and their stories. I also reconnected with some people from my childhood during it all."

Dernovsek, like Izdepski, has many relatives and friends with military service.

"I have six relatives, including my husband and a son, who have served," Dernovsek said. "It is kind of an honor to do this. I think we all feel that way."

The women said getting information about the service members was at times "very hard to come by," Jolanta said. "There were a number of them that we didn't have a lot of information on, so we had to check with families and records to find them out."

The informational books are in alphabetical order, so several families can look at them at the same time, Jolanta said.

Research revealed why a number of sites in Rusk County are named after those with military backgrounds.

"Those honored include those who were from here, or maybe moved here, and those who were formerly with or currently with the military," said Ron. "One day I heard there were 4,000 veterans in Rusk County, and that really spurred me on to do this too."

Area youth also have been intrigued by the display, Izdepski said.

"There have been groups of children in here who have seen pictures and read stories about relatives and learned things they didn't know before," she said.

Ron isn't sure how many more photos he can get on the display, guessing maybe 30 or so.

"If need be, I'll find a way to get them up there," he said. "It's been a project, something the whole community and certainly the families of these veterans appreciate."

 For questions about the display, contact Ron and Jolanta Grzeszkowiak at 715 452-5271.

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