Volunteers revive crumbling Veterans' Home cemetery chapel

By EMILY DELETTER | Journal & Courier | Published: November 15, 2020

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — What once stood in the east corner of the cemetery at Indiana Veterans' Home on the West Lafayette campus as a forgotten, crumbling chapel has received a much-needed facelift and newfound purpose.

The small chapel, built in 1932, was utilized by the Indiana State Soldier's Home Cemetery for years as a space for funerals, weddings, religious services and other activities. But over the years, it fell out of use and into disrepair.

The idea to renovate came from Ron Halsema and his wife, Randa, who noticed the chapel when visiting the Indiana Veterans' Home and took the project to the Exchange Club of Indiana, which they had recently joined.

"I didn't know it was back there," Halsema said. "I thought it was a good opportunity to do something for the Veterans' Home as a thank you."

Work on restorations began in 2019 and was expected to last a few months, until delays came via the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, Kris DeHahn, president of the Exchange Club of Lafayette, said.

Renovations, which included roof repairs, window cleaning and repairs, water damage to the ceiling and pews, new paint, carpet and electrical work, were recently completed. The chapel was set to have a socially distanced open house Nov. 11 for the public.

Work on the chapel is "about 95 percent complete," DeHahn said, with just a few touch-ups and landscaping around the building left to finish.

The Veterans Day parade hosted by the Indiana Veterans' Home Nov. 11 will drive past the chapel, where the Exchange Club will be set up, handing out fliers and setting up a donation bucket in hopes of gathering a few more dollars toward the project and drawing curious visitors to see the newly refurbished interior.

The chapel also received a blessing from a chaplain on Nov. 11.

The chapel will be officially unveiled next year, when the Indiana Veterans' Home celebrates its 125th birthday.

"We are very excited that we will be able to use it once again for spiritual and funeral services for our residents and families," Emily Larimer, director of communication and technology for Indiana Veterans' Home, said.

The Exchange Club fundraised nearly $20,000 to help fund the renovations. In total, the chapel project cost just over $40,000, with most of the cost going toward roof repairs, DeHahn said.

They were also able to save costs through some companies donating their services, DeHahn said, including Houston Electric Lafayette, which donated the electrical work done inside the chapel.

Halsema, who owns Halsema Custom Crafts in Lafayette, also helped refurbish the pews.

"It's been really nice to see the community come together and get this done," Halsema said.

Once it is open and available for use, the chapel will serve as a space once again for private funerals, weddings, family gatherings, meetings or other events.