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Armed services tribute breaks ground in Lake Nebagamon

After nearly five years of planning, organizers will break ground for the Lake Nebagamon Armed Services Tribute today beside the village auditorium. "This is for all veterans, not just Lake Nebagamon veterans," said Howard Levo, chairman of the c...

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Lake Nebagamon Armed Forces Tribute Committee members Barb Anderson, left, and Howard Levo hold up an architect’s rendering of the tribute beside the Lake Nebagamon Auditorium June 28. They will break ground for the tribute at 3 p.m. Friday. Community members are welcome to attend. Maria Lockwood

After nearly five years of planning, organizers will break ground for the Lake Nebagamon Armed Services Tribute today beside the village auditorium.

"This is for all veterans, not just Lake Nebagamon veterans," said Howard Levo, chairman of the committee that has been working to make the tribute a reality.

It will include a 20-foot-long wall covered in tiles honoring past and present members of the military, with the seals of all five branches at the top. The site will also feature a handicapped-accessible walkway, concrete benches and a marker at the corner of the lot featuring the tribute logo and name. Recessed lighting will enable visitors to stop by at all hours, and the spot will be open year-round.
"This project is going to do, I think, wonders for the village of Lake Nebagamon," said Levo, a Vietnam War veteran.

Armed Services Tribute Committee members have been raising funds for the $45,000 project since 2011. Neighboring business Bridge's Bar held meat raffles, and village playwright Kay Coletta penned military-themed musical fundraisers. Eighty-nine wall tiles have been purchased to date. Sixteen businesses have become sponsors, offering money or donating services in return for having their names inscribed on a block at the foot of the wall. Local architect Grant Ronchi was tapped to design the tribute and its logo.

This community effort is now taking shape.

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"It's hard to believe it's actually happening," said Levo's wife, Gail, who serves as the committee's secretary.

Barb Anderson of Lake Nebagamon, a founding member of the committee, has purchased tribute tiles for her husband, his uncles and their two sons, who all served their country. Tiles have been ordered for the six members of the Hildebrandt family, who served at the same time during World War II, and Anderson's pastor, who is currently serving with the 148th Fighter Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard. Levo, an Air Force veteran, has purchased a tile as well.

Although the committee discussed various sites for the tribute, they settled on building it on the east side of the Lake Nebagamon Auditorium facing Dairy Queen. It's on public land, is easy to access in all seasons and will be maintained by the village.

"In July we brought the final status report to the board for official approval," Anderson said. "They fully endorsed it."

The committee has collected about $43,000 for the tribute. They expect to raise the rest of the needed dollars through tile sales, business sponsorships and the publication of a book featuring local veterans. Coletta was working on the book, but passed away this spring before it was completed. Her family intends to finish it for her, Levo said.

"We feel confident once this gets going, it's going to take off," he said. "For me, personally, it's a matter of pride to do this."

The public is invited to attend today's groundbreaking ceremony. Committee members, including Willard Kiefer, plan to be there. They will bring site designs and the five military seals to give visitors a better sense of what the tribute will look like when completed.

Work on the project will begin Monday to allow the Classics by the Lake Car Show to take place Saturday. The area will be fenced off during construction, which is expected to take about two months.

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The tribute can display up to 250 tiles, which can be purchased for $200 apiece. Business sponsorships ranging from $300 to more than $5,000 are also available. For more information, visit lnast.org or contact Levo by calling (715) 374-2185 or emailing levos@mindspring.com . Donations can also be sent directly to Armed Services Tribute, P.O. Box 381, Lake Nebagamon, WI 54849.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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