The four war memorial stones on East Washington Street seemed to be a mystery.



East Peoria VFW Post 2078 commander Bill Gould did not know their history. Gould began digging, as did librarians at Fondulac District Library. With their assistance and information by city clerk Berta Dinkins, the history of the stones became known.


The four war memorial stones on East Washington Street seemed to be a mystery.

East Peoria VFW Post 2078 commander Bill Gould did not know their history. Gould began digging, as did librarians at Fondulac District Library. With their assistance and information by city clerk Berta Dinkins, the history of the stones became known.

Recently, the four memorial stones, which are owned by the city, were moved to the new Riverfront Freedom Memorial at RiverFront Park (behind Wal-Mart).

East Peoria Chamber of Commerce director Rick Swan said no one knew the stones were on Washington Street — the same route the veterans march down during the Veterans Day parade.

The idea to move the four memorial stones to their new home came after someone mentioned them to Swan. After inspecting them, Swan contacted East Peoria Mayor Dave Mingus and city administrator Tom Brimberry about his intentions to move them.

“They were very much in favor of doing it,” Swan said. “We just felt the consensus was they’d fit better at RiverFront Park at the memorial. People who have viewed them have that positive response that they are very fitting down there and added to the memorial.”

Fondulac Cemetery employees moved the markers about two weeks ago. Swan said they will be power washed to bring them back to their original luster.

“The RiverFront Park has become more of a focal point to honor veterans,” Swan said.

Stone’s history
Former Fondulac District Library director Norma Smith is credited with the idea for the memorial stones.

Smith, who earned the chamber’s citizen of the year distinction in 2002, now lives in another state.
Through a librarian staff member’s notes dated Aug. 15, 1983, several organizations were called to track down a list of those East Peorians killed in four wars — World War I, World War II, Korean War and the Vietnamese Conflict.

An article titled “Names of EP war dead sought for downtown monument” was also printed in the Journal Star Oct. 16, 1983.

The article stated that the memorials were to be a part of the city’s centennial observance in 1984.
Diane Soffietti, reference desk coordinator at the Fondulac District Library, said East Peoria looked a lot different in the mid-’80s then it does today.

“The square was done for the centennial in ’84. The bell tower was installed. Before 1984, the downtown area looked a lot different than it does now. It had buildings that came right up to the sidewalk. In preparation for the centennial, a couple of these buildings were purchased and they put in Town Center I and Town Center II,” Soffietti said.

“They beautified the square, this four-corner area, which has the city fountain, the bell tower, sidewalks and some trees, and behind that they put in the two strips which has Blockbuster, which is Town Center I, and Wal-Mart went into Town Center II.”

The war memorials were part of this renovation.

When the first list of 32 names came in for the memorials, Smith, who served as the centennial commissioner, thought there must be more. The final list had 50 names on it.

A photo and caption from the June 6, 1984 East Peoria Courier stated, “Volunteer labor was used Saturday to prepare the way for monuments which will line Washington Street and honor East Peorians who died in battle. Helping dig the 40-inch holes were Ray Bahnfleth. Andy Henricks, Peg Bahnfleth, Jim Frey, Mike Miller and Mark Eyers.”

Swan said the chamber may plan an event at RiverFront Park — where the four stones, as well as other memorials, can be viewed — for Veterans Day this year.

“The sad thing is, we’re probably going to have to put up another one for Iraq and Afghanistan,” Swan said.