History & Timeline of Soldiers Field and Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial

In 1927, the William T. McCoy Post #92 of the American Legion of Rochester MN, bought property from Dr. Graham for $30,000, which then became officially known as Soldiers Memorial Field.

The City of Rochester subsequently purchased it from Post #92 with stipulations as to its use.

The City accepted the Legion’s over-all plan to develop this property as a public park with recreational facilities for our youth that would encourage amateur athletics and would be dedicated to soldiers of all wars.

In 1930, additional lots were bought from William and Kathleen Fitzgerald for $1.00. In February of 1936, the American Legion Post #92, gave the Park Commissioners $32,500 to construct a bathhouse and swimming pool at Soldiers Field.

In 1943, more lots were bought from Kathleen Fitzgerald for $1,250.

On August 12, 1951, the Eagle at the entrance was unveiled at a ceremony dedicating the recreational area to the Youth of Olmsted County.

The Memorial

In 1965, the Vietnam War had been going on for quite some time. Support for our sons and daughters in that far away land was eroding rapidly. Demonstrations at home and abroad were continuing at an alarming rate. Many factors, including our Vietnam War strategy, put our troops in a position where we could not win.

When our heroes who answered their country’s call arrived back in the United States, they were treated shamefully by many of the very people they were serving. It was a sad time in the history of our country.

In 1965, the Rochester Jaycees spearheaded the adoption of the 173d Airborne Brigade. This project was designed to show our support for those who were serving their country so far away from home. This quickly became a citywide project. Jaycees, nurses, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and the entire city became involved. Items that could be used for health and cleanliness were collected, filling two train boxcars for shipment to Vietnam and the 173d. Rochester was the second city in the nation to show support for our Vietnam Veterans by adopting a Vietnam fighting unit.

It was not until the 173d returned to Rochester for their annual reunion in 1995 that Rochester found out how important the adoption was some 30 years earlier. Rochester gave the returning 173d the heroes’ welcome that they so richly deserved. They participated in the Rochesterfest parade and all along the parade route the entire city stood and honored those returning heroes.

The Soldiers Field Memorial that you see today is the result of the seed planted in 1965 that started to grow in 1995. The original idea to have a Memorial plaque honoring the 173d grew to include every significant conflict from our Civil War to the Gulf War.

For additional information see the “Story of the 173d Air Borne Brigade (SEP)” on the Memorial Wall.

The first Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial committee was selected by former Jaycees, Wayne Stillman and Wayne Arnold, including recommendations made by Mayor Chuck Hazama. The candidates were approved by the City Council in October 1995.

View Memorial Committee Original Members
Doris Amundsen: Park Board
Wayne Arnold: CPA and Jaycee member during the 173d’s adoption
Richard Brehmer: Architect and Jaycee member during the 173rd’s adoption
Harry Kerr: Olmsted Country Deputy, VFW member, and decorated veteran
Ed Merrell: Olmsted County History Center
Floyd Riester: Chairman of the 173rd’s Rochester reunion
Wayne Stillman: Business owner/Jaycee member during the 173rd’s adoption
Louis Vetsch: Jaycee’s 1995 President
Dave Senjem: Councilman and former Jaycee

Since 1995, thousands of unpaid volunteer hours were spent planning, researching, fund raising, and finally the actual construction. This effort, together with the public’s generous support, made this Memorial possible.

Chairman Wayne Stillman exemplifies the volunteer’s commitment, dedication, and faith in this project. From its inception, he kept the flame burning when few thought that this dream was possible. Although he suffered a life-threatening fight with cancer, he remained the project’s driving force.

Meet our Development Team
General Chairman: Wayne Stillman*
Co- Chairman, Secretary/Treasurer: Wayne Arnold
Co-Chairman Construction: Bob DeWitz*
Walk of Remembrance Paver Sales: Ken Zubay* Rod Lee, Eve Klampe, Bob Sheridan
Dedication Program: Harry Kerr*, Floyd Riester
Major Sponsor Sales: Glenn Miller*, Craig Q. Fisher
Project Awareness: Bob Sheridan*
Wall Graphics Research: Rod Lee*, Harold Perry, Merle Peterson, Pauline Krieger, Bob Sheridan, Chris Stapleton, Jeanette Hinds
Medallion, Buttons, & Pins: Ken Zubay*, Abbott “By Heck” Hoecker (design), Barbara Hight Randall (procurement/sales)
Dedication Brochure: Ken Zubay* – Editor
Button & Pin Sales: Eve Klampe*, Rod Lee, Ken Zubay
History: Ed Merrell*
Military Club Liaison: Harry Kerr*, Floyd Riester
Park Department Liaison: Denny Stotz*
Paver Installation: Lonnie Hebl*, Mark Allen, Merle Peterson, Sentence to Serve Team
Sentence to Serve Program: Lonnie Hebl
Project Design: Leslie Rivas (designer), Bob De Witz, Jeff Anderson
Religious Liaison: Rev. Jerry Barnhart
Jaycee Representative: Steve Beilby
City Government Liaison: Dave Senjem
Wall of Remembrance: Ray Sibley*, Harry Kerr, Pat Lahey, Mike Walsh
Web Site Coordinator: Ken Zubay*, Wayne Herivel
*-Coordinator

The Soldiers Field Memorial “Charge”
In October 1995, a Committee was presented to Mayor Hazama and after discussion, additional members were added. This committee was then presented to and approved by the City Council. A non-profit corporation was then formed under Section 501C3 of the IRS Code to enable tax-deductible contributions.

The committee determined that the Soldiers Field Memorial charge would be:

  • Dedicated to all veterans for their service in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
  • Display the names of service men and women who perished as the result of injuries sustained in the service. Names of the deceased shall be from Southeast Minnesota within a 50-mile radius of Rochester. Names will be added as received and approved by the screening committee.
  • Include information regarding the nature of each significant conflict, i.e. Revolutionary War, Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, and other conflicts to-date.
  • Show graphic scenes from the Civil War to the Gulf War
  • Include a historic perspective from the United States point of view illustrating the significance that war has played in the development of our country.
  • Contain flags of the six service branches, the POW/MIA flag, the Minnesota State flag, and the American flag.
  • Include and maintain the existing monument structure honoring veterans of all wars and dedicated to the youth of Olmsted County.
  • Include a reflective area contain 50 trees (one per state).
  • The story of Rochester’s connection to the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
  • Names of donors for the construction and maintenance of the memorial will be recognized.

Timeline of Events from Initial Conception in 1995 to Present

June 25 1995

Dave Senjem and Wayne Stillman discussed idea for a memorial

June 26 1995

Wayne Stillman contacted Wayne Arnold with a vision for a Memorial and solicited his help.
Arnold agreed and then Harry Kerr, Dick Brehmer, Floyd Riester were contacted and plans were started.

October 2 1995

Committee formed for Memorial approved by City Council

October 17 1995

Committee meeting to decide if we build a museum or a memorial or both.

October 26 1995

Orientation meeting for committee held.

February 8 1996

Met with Rochester Park Dept to review concept plans

March 1996

Selected “Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial Inc.” as our name.

May 8 1996

Park Dept approved plans for Memorial.

June 24 1996

Presented proposal to Mayo Foundation for a monetary grant.

July 8 1996

Mayo Foundation donated $60,000.00 to Memorial.

July 15 1996

Approved by-laws for Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial Inc.

July 31 1996

Plans for proceeding with the Memorial set.

August 23 1996

Met with Architects regarding plans to build. Stillman turned down their proposal of 8% fee.

September 19 1996

Announced plans for building the memorial with champagne news conference

October 1 1996

Presented idea for $100.00 bricks for walkway.

November 1996

Formed many meetings with service clubs and organizations.

November 1996

Sent letters to clubs and organizations for donations.

November 1996

Set up a traveling Memorial display.

November 1996

Set up 501c(3) Corporation.

February 1997

Stillman recruited Bob DeWitz to oversee the construction.

March 1 1997

Fundraiser held at RochCheers bar.

April 1997

Trustees authorized paver sales at $350.00 each.

April 13 1997

VFW Post 1215 had a find-raising walk.

May 17 1997

Held fund raising golf tournament.

May 25 1997

Special Veterans Program with our Model there.

June 13 1997

Held groundbreaking ceremony at Memorial

August 1997

Set up booth at County Fair to sell pavers

September 10 1997

Had booth at Golden Generation show.

October 19 1997

Held dinner and auction for fund raiser

October 1997

Kathy’s Pub held a fundraising walk.

November 27 1997

VFW Post 1215 bar held another fund raising walk.

November 1997

Started major campaign to sell pavers.

January 3 1998

Lorence Schroeder won $1,000.00 in drawing.

March 7 1998

Pool tournament held at Char’s Palace.

April 1998

Pavers displayed in numerous locations for sale.

May 1998

Concrete work started on Memorial.

May 16 1998

Set up paver booth at Apache Mall

May 22 1998

Set up crosses at Memorial to observe Memorial Day.

May 25 1998

First Memorial Day ceremony held at Memorial

May 29 1998

Fund raising golf tournament held at Soldiers Field golf course.

June 1998

Set up find raising booth at Rochester Fest.

June 28 1998

Fund raising golf tournament ran.

July 4 1998

George Pougiales returned $1,000.00 he won in drawing from all who purchased a paver

August 1998

Set up booth at Olmsted County fair.

September 18 1998

Poured walk for first 1440 pavers

October 8 1998

Bus trip for members to inspect memorials in our area.

October 10 1998

Pool tournament fund raiser at Char’s Palace.

November 20 1998

First time moved the Eagle from existing Memorial, later moved to entrance of Memorial

January 9 1999

Final 1656 pavers sold

May 31 1999

Memorial Day ceremony held at Memorial

June 1999

Ordered 2500 hat and button pins and 2000 medallions for sale

September 1999

Cold Spring Granite Co. Replaced 14 granite panels because of matching concerns.

November 13 1999

Fundraiser auction in conjunction with People of Hope Church held.

December 7 1999

Flag raising ceremony held at Memorial.

April 2000

Eagle monument moved to entrance of memorial.

April 14 2000

Minnesota House of Representatives honors Memorial work with a proclamation.

May 5 2000

Final of 2574 pavers installed

May 20 2000

Set up food stand at Sam’s Club

May 29 2000

Memorial Day ceremony held at Memorial

June 14 2000

Civil War plaque installed at base of Eagle at Memorial.

June 20 2000

Rochester Fest booth set up to sell pavers, medallions and pins.

June 24 2000

Fifth U.S. Air Force veterans, stationed in Japan from 1946 to 1958, held reunion in Rochester

June 24 2000

Carl Beeler, WW II Veteran walked from Turo, Iowa, 250 miles to the Memorial

June 24 2000

Masons held dedication ceremony at Memorial

June 25 2000

Memorial dedicated in conjunction with 173d Airborne reunion

August 30 2000

School kick off meeting for teachers held at Memorial.

September 25 2000

Charles Lindberg speaks to LST 588 reunion at Memorial

October 2000

Memorial selected for CUDE Award from city for new construction.

November 11 2000

First Veterans Day program held at Memorial

March 15 2001

Engraving on outside walls finished.

May 29 2001

Memorial Day ceremony held at memorial

September 30 2001

Finished installing pavers

September 27 2001

Governor Ventura lays his tree paver at Memorial

November 11 2001

Veterans Day program held at Memorial

May 18 2002

Program featuring Charles Lindberg, last survivor of Iwo Jima flag raising, and Tom Shepers, a wounded Vietnam vet who ran from coast to coast.

May 30 2002

Memorial Day ceremony held at Memorial

September 9 2002

Outside wall engraving finished

September 24 2002

Ex- POWs National Reunion

September 27 2002

Ceremony to honor South Vietnamese bench held.

September 28 2002

Charles Lindberg, last survivor of Iwo Jima flag raising attends ceremony remembering the event.

November 11 2002

Veterans Day program held at Memorial

December 28 2002

Candlelight vigil held for POW/MIAs

January 3 2003

Exhibits commemorating Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial and 173d installed at City Hall

April 13 2003

Support the Troops Rally held at Memorial

May 30 2003

Memorial Day ceremony held at Memorial

August 21 2003

Scott Nelson selected as sculpture for Woman and Child statue

September 18 2003

Frank Kottschade committed $70,000.00 for the installation of a statue of a nurse. Committee formed to research it.

November 11 2003

Veterans Day program held at Memorial

December 24 2003

The WW-I and the Iraqi canons were refurbished and installed

May 30 2004

Memorial Day ceremony held at Memorial

July 25 2004

The 420 additional pavers were installed south of the Wall of Remembrance

September 31 2004

Dedicated statue of “Widow and Child” at Memorial

November 11 2004

First Veteran’s Day program held at Mayo Civic Auditorium with free breakfast served to over 500, courtesy of Canadian Honker Restaurant & Lounge

June 25 2005

Support the Troops Rally II held at Memorial

September 24 2005

Dedicated the Soldier Statue at 6th Street entrance

November 11 2005

Held Veterans Day program at New Life Worship Center with free Breakfast

July 2006

Turned over ownership of Memorial to the City Rochester

July 2006

Gave Rochester Area Foundation $500,000.00 to invest. The Interest earned to be used for perpetual maintenance for the Memorial

August 6 2006

Added 330 pavers

August 24 2006

Installed 2385 Flags in football field behind Memorial

August 26 2006

Dedicated Nurse/Medic Statue with Bob Dole as speaker

September 23 2006

Support the Troops Rally III held at Memorial

September 26 2007

Received “More Than You Know” award for Memorial

November 11 2007

Held Veterans Day program at New Life Worship Center with free Breakfast

December 9 2007

Wreaths Across America program at New Life Worship

November 11 2008

Held Veterans Day program at New Life Worship Center with free Breakfast

December 10 2008

Wreaths Across America program at new Life Worship

February 9 2009

Paid $23,000.00 to the City of Rochester for Memorial maintenance

May 25 2009

Memorial Day Program

July 4 2009

Tomb of the Unknown program at Peace Plaza

November 11 2009

Held Veterans Day program at New Life Worship Center with free Breakfast

December 12 2009

Wreaths Across America program at New Life Worship

April 1 2010

Paid $25,000.00 to the City of Rochester for Memorial maintenance

April 3 2010

Honor Flight to Washington

May 15 2010

Honor Flight to Washington

May 20 2010

Installed last of 546 pavers from Memorial to Cannons

June 26 2010

10th Anniversary program at Memorial featuring Tomb of the Unknown

August 7 2010

Partnered with Kahler Hotel to hold Military Appreciation Day at Olmsted Fair

August 18 2010

Honor Flight fund raising auction at Shorewood Senior Campus

September 6 2010

Installed and dedicated POW/MIA bench