LAKE PARK, Iowa (WHO-TV)— A few years back Lake Park American Legion member Jim Kessler had an idea. He would pass by the Ray “Bubba” Sorenson Freedom Rock in Adair County. He thought that would be cool to have a monument to veterans like that in his town. Then he learned Sorenson planned to take the Freedom Rock painting, around the state of Iowa.
“When he started painting rocks in different counties I became aware of it through the newspaper article in Sheldon,” said Kessler. “So I made some inquiries and found out that yes it’s all possible, all I have to do is submit an application and have some funds in the bank.”
Kessler formed a committee, and worked with local groups and the Lake Park City Council. They raised $10,000 in funds to build the Dickinson County Freedom Rock, as they were the first community in the state to request Sorenson to come to the county. They came up with a unique design including six rocks in a circular design.
Kessler worked with a local landscape company, Forever Green Landscaping from Milford donated services to help with the design, and to maintain the monument. Kessler had ideas about local veterans which would be honored on the Rock.
“I contacted each family personally and got a picture of their loved one,” said Kessler. “After they got family approval and we brought them to present it to Bubba.”
There are five people who have their image painted by Sorenson:
Lawrence Lambert, of Milford- Survived a Death March.
Everett Gatt, from Lake Park, killed aboard a ship
Merle Simpson, of Terril, Killed in Action
William Bill Earhart, of Spirit Lake,survived the Bataan Death March.
Rachael Wonder, a Kansas native who served with a local Spirit Lake surgeon, Dr. Rodawig, in WWII, and later located to the area to continue working with him.
“People come and visit, and I’m lucky to be here when they’re here to hear the story of what walking into this memorial means to them,” said Kessler. “When you watch a grown man cry you know you touched a spot someplace.”
For information on the Lake Park Freedom Rock click here.