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Local organizations to gift new tornado memorial to Charles City

  • This drawing shows what a proposed new 1968 tornado memorial in Central Park, to be installed by the Lions Club, might look like. Photo submitted

  • Charles City Lions Club Secretary Brad Bailey (left), Parks and Rec board vice chairperson Jeff Otto (middle) and Parks and Rec chairperson Ken Sheckler (right) attend a Parks and Recreation Board meeting on Wednesday in Charles City. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • City Administrator Steve Diers (left), Parks and Recreation Director Steve Lindaman (middle) and Parks and Rec Board member Dennis Petersen (right) attend a Parks and Rec Board meeting on Wednesday in Charles City. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

By Kelly Terpstra,

A single flagpole rises near the west side of Central Park in Charles City. At the base is a plaque inscribed with the names of 13 people who lost their lives in the horrific 1968 tornado that swept through the city more than five decades ago.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of that plaque being dedicated in remembrance of those victims.

Brad Bailey came up with an idea a few years back to keep remembering. At the same time he thought the  memorial could use a little upgrade and refreshing with three new flagpoles.

“It’s showing its age,” said Bailey.

Bailey’s brainstorming came up with a gift that the Charles City Lions Club, along with the Charles City Women’s Club, will give back to the community via a project that also honors the Lions’ Centennial in 2021.

Bailey, the Charles City Lions Club secretary, presented the plan to the Parks and Rec Board on Wednesday.

“This is a gift from the Lions Club to Charles City because they have been so good to us over a hundred years,” he said.

Bailey, along with Parks and Rec Board Vice Chairman Jeff Otto, plan to raise three new flagpoles in place of the old memorial. They will fit into a raised planting area surrounded by a 12-inch retaining wall. The proposed new memorial will feature limestone benches surrounding a 24-by-36-foot presentation platform that is level with the ground. Brick pavers would comprise the platform’s surface.

The $25,000-$30,000 project would be gifted to Charles City to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Lions Charles City chapter two years from now on May 3, 2021. The Charles City Lions Club was created on May 3, 1921.

The anniversary of the 1968 F-5 tornado that devastated Charles City is May 15.

“There isn’t any hesitation on our part to move forward,” said Bailey. “As a century project, it’s something the club wants to do to recognize our commitment and community spirit with the city of Charles City.”

Bailey said the Lions Club voted unanimously to go ahead with the project, as did the Charles City Women’s Club. The two clubs are going to fundraise all the money required to do the project.

A motion was approved at Wednesday’s Parks and Rec Board meeting for the area to be spray-painted in the coming weeks with an outline so people have a visual idea of how big the new memorial would be.

Otto’s Oasis, a florist and greenhouse that Otto owns with his wife, Lori, will team up with Lions members to start work on the project in the fall of 2020 and have the memorial ready for the following spring.

“In December we had the first option. We were asked to come back and redesign it. Now we’ve given them exactly what they’re looking for and they’re very happy,” said Bailey.

Inside the planter will be low-maintenance grasses and shrubs. The brick pavers would match the existing ones in the park. There will also be a 6-inch raised presentation platform that people can stand on to speak at the memorial.

The middle, highest pole in the planter will feature the United States flag. The pole on the right will fly the flag of Iowa and the pole on the south side of the memorial will honor the city with a Charles City flag.

The Charles City flag doesn’t exist yet, but the Lions Club will ask the communities’ input on selecting what kind of flag that will be. Bailey said there will be a contest rolled out in the coming months that will offer an opportunity to suggest what that flag may look like. Local judges will determine the winner.

“We will look at all comers,” said Bailey.

The Charles City Lions Club has a tradition of giving back. Bailey said the Charles City Lions Club helped build the first lighted football field in the state of Iowa.

“It’s a good win-win, wonderful, heartwarming story,” said Bailey. “That’s what we try to do. We serve. That’s the motto.”

Also at the Parks and Rec Board meeting, City Administrator Steve Diers announced there are 48 applicants for the position of the parks and recreation director that has been advertised. Diers said the position will pay between $55,000 and $75,000, depending on the qualifications of the person who is hired.

The position needs to be filled because of the announced retirement of longtime Parks and Rec Director Steve Lindaman. His last scheduled day of work for the city is May 31. Lindaman took over as Parks and Rec director in Charles City in 1982 – more than 36 years ago.

Diers said there are several candidates from Charles City and the surrounding area who have applied for the director position. Interviews could begin as soon as next week.

Current Parks and Rec Board member Dennis Petersen, along with former board member Robert Kloberdanz, will sit in on several interviews. Charles City Deputy Clerk Virginia Titus will also help with the interview process.