Chillicothe Veterans Memorial Commission keeps focus on veterans

Marianne Gillespie
The front of Chillicothe City Cemetery honors Chillicothe’s veterans through three monuments and a place for loved ones to purchase a bronze plaque in a veteran’s honor.

Like in years past, Chillicotheans will gather in the veterans section of Chillicothe City Cemetery on Veterans Day.

The flag will be flown and veterans will be honored.

Part of that honoring, however, began in 1990 with the formation of the Chillicothe Veterans Memorial Commission.

At the time, the American Legion Post 9 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4999 fundraised for three monuments to be purchased, as well as a flagpole in the front northeast corner of the cemetery. The commission also purchased the land from the city. The project was dedicated July 4, 1991.

The memorial came about through the efforts of R. Paul Gollnitz, a World War II veteran and longtime city alderman.

Rich Gollnitz affectionately said his late brother propelled the project ahead in his unique style — a style that those who knew him could only understand.

Remembering and honoring veterans who are now deceased is made easier by two 5-by-8 foot granite stones to the side of the monuments, which provide a base for bronze plaques with a veteran’s name on each of them.

Families may honor their veterans through purchasing a bronze plaque for $250.

The proceeds from those plaques assist the commission in their efforts. A copy of a veteran’s DD214 must be provided. Only the names of deceased veterans can be attached to the base, but a plaque may be purchased before a veteran’s death.

The area still has room for one more base if interest continues in the project.

The veterans also keep the area pretty with landscaping of flowers — not necessarily an easy task for the aging group. At this point in the year, they pull up the flowers and take out the watering hoses in preparation for the winter.

Come spring, they till the ground and plant some 280 flowers. Part of the money the commission receives goes to the purchase of the flowers.

In years past, the late Jim Peters of Peters Floral donated all the flowers.

The all-volunteer group makes a summer rotation to keep the 80 feet long by 2 feet wide bed of white vincas, with its patriotic red inside, weeded and watered.

The flag flying on the flagpole is many times donated by a deceased veteran’s family, sometimes one the family received at a funeral or one they purchased.

Making up the commission now are the commanders from each of the four Chillicothe veterans groups — now including AMVETS 77 and Marine Corps League Det. 1035 —plus three members from each group.

Each Memorial Day, veterans’ graves are decorated with new flags, which is no small task either with about 864 flags purchased for not only city cemetery, but also the smaller cemeteries in the area.

To help with that task, as well as assist with maintaining the memorial area, the Chillicothe Township traditionally gives the commission a donation at its annual town meeting.

“The township has been very good with a generous contribution,” said Gollnitz.

So far, the commission has not had to fundraise to keep its efforts continuing, said Gollnitz.

Now more than two decades later, the commission continues on with its same purpose: making sure veterans are remembered through maintaining, protecting and improving the grounds at the Chillicothe Veterans Memorial.

The late Neil Young, a well-known Chillicothe veteran, may have said it best years ago, Rich Gollnitz said.

“The commission is ‘unique’ in that the organizations come together to honor the veterans.”