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An 'overwhelming' gift for veterans park

Brion Golde (right), the leader of the Alexandria Area Freemasons, is about to present a donation of $40,000 to Veterans Memorial Park Committee members (left to right) Roger Blank, Russ Oorlog, Gabe Pipo and Ralph Berg. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press) 1 / 2
This computer-generated image shows how the new Veterans Memorial Park will look. Construction is expected to begin next spring. (Drawing courtesy of Widseth Smith Nolting and Associates) 2 / 2

The Alexandria Area Freemasons made the largest donation in its 150-year history Monday night, Nov. 26.

Members of the fraternity gave $40,000 to the new Veterans Memorial Park that will break ground this spring at the corner of Alexandria's Broadway and Eighth Avenue, east of Viking Towers.

The Freemasons first started talking about supporting the project last spring, and all 104 members voted for the lodge to donate $20,000. The contribution doubled when the Grand Lodge of Minnesota approved a matching grant.

Organizers of the veterans park were ecstatic. During a special presentation at the Alexandria lodge Monday, park committee members Gabe Pipo and Russ Oorlog said they were overwhelmed by the Freemasons' support.

Pipo noted the donation will put their fundraising efforts over the $600,000 mark — two-thirds of the way toward their $900,000 goal.

"We were absolutely thrilled," Pipo told the Freemasons. "Thank you so much. We're proud of how the community has supported this."

There has always been a deep connection between the Freemasons and those who serve in the military, said Brion Golde, the leader of Alexandria Constellation Lodge 81. They share a camaraderie and respect for their country, he said.

The connection was clear Monday when Golde asked the 25 or so members attending to introduce themselves and most of them described their military service. Those who didn't have the opportunity to serve thanked the veterans for keeping America free.

The Freemasons also thanked the Veterans Memorial Park Committee for leading the effort to build a memorial in Alexandria, calling it an "extremely worthwhile endeavor."

The project will place stone memorials containing the names of veterans past and present in what used to be known as Legion Park.

Organizers have been collecting veterans' names and donations from the public and they plan to add more names from Douglas County Historical Society records. The goal is to inscribe all the names on 22 tablets, each measuring 6-and-a-half-feet tall by 42-inches wide.

Time is running out for those who want to include the name of a veteran in an alphabetical listing. After about three months, names will still be accepted but there won't be time to place them in alphabetical order.

The cost for including a name is $100. Special recognition will be given at no charge for any veteran from the Alexandria area who qualifies as a prisoner of war, killed in action, missing in action or is a medal of honor recipient.

The park will also include flags, benches, a bell monument, a donor wall, military artifacts, a monument from the Douglas County Courthouse, a pictorial memorial of patriotic scenes and a picnic shelter with bathrooms and a playground.

While the fundraising has been successful, the effort is far from over, Pipo and Oorlog said.

"We are still looking for funds. We still need help," said Pipo.

All funds for the memorial are being raised through private donations or grants. For more information, email alexvetsmemorial@gmail.com. Checks may be mailed to Veterans Memorial Park, P.O. Box 733, Alexandria, MN 56308.

ABOUT THE FREEMASONS

Freemasonry is the world's oldest and largest fraternal order, with some 1.5 million members worldwide. Membership is open to men of any race or religion who believe in a Supreme Being and are of good repute.

The Alexandria area chartered the 81 Masonic Lodge in Minnesota in 1869 and currently has 104 members. "Respecting the very long and proud history of our patriotic heritage, Constellation Lodge 81 continues to be a strong supporter of the military men and women serving and the past veterans of our area," noted a fact sheet about Freemasonry that was distributed at Monday's meeting.

In addition to supporting veterans, the lodge grants eight to 10 scholarships to area high school graduates each year.

The Freemasons' "Three Great Principles" include:

• Brotherly love. Every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinion of others and behave with kindness and understanding.

• Relief. Freemasons are taught to practice charity, and to care, not only for their own, but also for the community as a whole, both by charitable giving, and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals.

• Truth. Freemasons strive for truth, requiring high moral standards and aiming to achieve them in their own lives. Freemasons believe that these principles represent a way of achieving higher standards in life.

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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