Lansing’s lost Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker finds a home
by Matthew J. Splant
LANSING, Ill. (August 26) – After several years being out of public view, Lansing’s Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker was re-dedicated at the American Legion Edward Schultz Post #697, where it has found a permanent home.
Post Commander Don Lange, who was the Master of Ceremonies, began with a reminder: “Today is a day of remembrance; to remember those men and women who came back, those who never returned, and those who are injured in combat.”
The dedication was attended, on a bright sunny day, by veterans, members of the American Legion, active military, residents of Lansing, Mayor Patty Eidam, Village Trustees, Village Clerk Vivian Payne, and other village officials.
After the presentation of colors and service flags, the invocation was given by Mrs. Fran Maybray, Chaplain of the Ladies Auxiliary. Daniel McDevitt, Lieutenant Commander U.S. Navy (Retired), was the guest speaker.
The Blue Star Marker, once on public display on Ridge Road, was removed to make space available for the Firefighters Memorial statue, which was dedicated in 2010. The Marker went missing until members at the American Legion started asking about its location. An exhaustive search found the Marker in a bad state of repair.
Then-Mayor Norm Abbott and the Trustees contributed to a fund for restoring the Marker. After restoration it was displayed in the Village Hall to wait for a new home.
Legion member Kevin Engel called on Nora Christine-Feltman, a Navy veteran and fellow member, to help find a way to move the Marker to the Legion’s grounds. Together with Vivian Payne, who was Mayor Abbott’s Executive Assistant at the time, they contacted Kathy Rewerts, Blue Star Memorial Chairman for the Garden Clubs of Illinois. The Garden Club, as administrator of the Marker program, needed to give consent to move and dedicate the Marker on the Legion Grounds. They granted approval in the autumn of 2016.
The Blue Star Marker program was initially conceived by the National Council of State Garden Clubs after WWII as a suitable means of honoring servicemen and women. The program began in 1944 in New Jersey with the legislature designating five miles of highway as Blue Star Drive. In addition, one thousand flowering Dogwood trees would be planted and no billboards were allowed in that stretch.
Christine-Feltman explained that the project was named for the Blue Star in the service flags that hung in windows of homes and businesses to honor servicemen and women. When the Garden Clubs gathered for their 1945 meeting, there was a strong desire to bring the memorial created in New Jersey to every state. Out of that, the Blue Star Memorial Highway Program was adopted. The program grew, and in 1951 it enlarged its mission to include all men and women who had served, were serving, or would serve in the Armed Forces of the United States.
Lansing’s Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker has been installed in front of the flag display at the American Legion. The American Legion is open to the public, and is not exclusive to veterans or members of the active-duty military. The American Legion welcomes anyone to view the Marker and enjoy the bar and camaraderie at 18255 Grant Street, near Clock Tower Plaza.