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Pieces of history tell veteran stories

Briana Fiandt, curator of collections at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, holds a child-size replica of a World War I uniform made by the wife of Army Lt. Carlyle Fay of Minneapolis. The uniform was worn by Fay's son, grandson and great-grandson before being donated to the center. (Maria Lockwood/mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)1 / 2
Clockwise from upper left, World War I Army Lt. Carlyle Fay, his son, great-grandson and grandson all wear uniforms in family photos. The uniform worn by the children was created by Fay's wife to be a replica of his own. It was handed down through the generations to remember his service. (Maria Lockwood/mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)2 / 2

This year, Veterans Day will also mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Local events honoring veterans will include dinners, school programs and free haircuts. Veterans and their families also receive free admission to the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center Saturday, Nov. 10, through Monday, Nov. 12.

Visitors can step back in time to the "war to end all wars" through the center's World War I display. Since it opened about a year ago, more World War I artifacts have been coming in.

Maybe the display jogged visitors' memory, Executive Director Hayes Scriven said. Or they may have been prompted to donate an item by the upcoming centennial.

Many found it hard to part with these pieces of history.

"The family members that are donating the older items, WWII and before, they seem to have a bigger personal connection with them," Scriven said. "Maybe it was because of the service they had. It was such a unique time for that veteran. I think for a lot of people it's hard to let go of that, because those were such major moments in people's lives."

One donation — a child's size replica of Army Lt. Carlyle Fay's World War I uniform — was made even more personal by a series of photographs showing his son, grandson and great-grandson all wearing it.

"I just think it's so amazing how they kept honoring through all those generations," said Briana Fiandt, curator of collections. "Basically, for almost 100 years, they were honoring him."

She said some donors bring them items because their children, now the third generation since a conflict, don't have a vested interest in them.

"I think we do provide a really good service," Fiandt said. "It's a place for them to feel comfortable bringing these items that they can't bear to just put in the garbage or give to Goodwill. We're providing a home and a safe place for these things that were so important to them."

Donating items locally gives them more storytelling power, Scriven said.

"If you look at history items where they stay within context, it has a more powerful effect," he said. "When the school groups come in and you talk to them about local history and local stories and you're telling them about a veteran, that a name might ring true to them."

Someone who's taken Mike Colalillo Drive in Duluth may connect more with his story, Scriven said. Private First Class Colalillo served in the Army from February of 1944 to April 1945 and received the Medal of Honor. His photograph hangs in the Northland Heroes display.

The biggest example is the center's restored P-38 airplane, which resonates with those who know about Richard I. Bong and visitors who remember driving past it in Poplar.

Donating an item doesn't mean an end to the connection.

"I have one family that every summer they have a family reunion and one of their stops is to come here," Fiandt said. "I pull out all of their uncle's and grandpa's items and then the whole family gets together and looks at everything.

"Just because they're donating it doesn't mean they can never see it again," Fiandt said.

Center visitors can leave a piece of their own history without donating artifacts. The Daughters of the American Revolution will be setting up the Our Heroes' Tree in the center's lobby Saturday, Scriven said.

Anyone is welcome to honor the veterans in their family by creating an ornament that includes their name, picture and service information. The ornaments will become part of the annual display.

Pre-cut paper ornaments are available for people to take home, decorate and put a photo on. People can also bring in ornaments of their own creation to celebrate the military members of their family tree. The tree is expected to remain on display through Christmas.

Artifact donations from any conflict are also being accepted by the center. Visit bvhcenter.org or call 715-392-7151 for information.

Area events

• Cathedral School hosts a Veterans Day Program at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 9, in the school gymnasium at 1419 Baxter Ave. The public is welcome to attend.

• The Superior Elks Lodge hosts its eighth annual Veterans Day dinner and program Friday, Nov. 9, at 1508 Belknap St. The event includes a social hour from 5-6 p.m., ceremony at 6 p.m. and dinner at 6:30 p.m. Lake Superior Sounds will provide after-dinner music. The event is free to all veterans and their significant others. Military or veterans identification cards must be provided. A $7 donation is requested for non-veteran guests. RSVP at 715-394-7403 for reservations.

• A Veteran's Day March will be held in downtown Duluth Sunday, Nov. 11. Marchers will gather in front of the Depot on Michigan Street starting at 9 a.m. At 10:30 a.m., after a brief ceremony, the march will proceed southbound on 5th Avenue West, over I-35, to the West Gate of the DECC. The march will end by 11 a.m. and a ceremony will follow inside the DECC.

• Bam Style will be offering free haircuts to veterans from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, at 133 E. Central Entrance in Duluth. No appointment needed. Bring a form of identification showing you are a veteran to receive a free haircut. Donations will be accepted for the Wounded Warrior Project. Visit bamstyle.com.

• Observance of the 100th anniversary of end of World War I featuring Barnum Jazz Band takes place at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, in the Soo Line Event Center, 900 Folz Blvd., Moose Lake. The event includes readings and a video followed by coffee and cookies.

• Thomas and Debra King will read from Thomas Favell's Civil War letters to his Wisconsin family from 1861-65 at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11 at the north end of Favell Street in the village of Solon Springs, near the United States flag This is the 100th anniversary of the passing of Favell, King's great grandfather Favell and his wife Angela were among early settlers of Wisconsin and the Superior-Solon Springs area. Their writings are archived at the Wisconsin Historical Society. The informal reading will take place outside and last about 20 minutes. Open to the public.

• Solon Springs School hosts a Veterans Day assembly at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 12, in the school gymnasium. The free public event will include music and a presentation. Veterans who attend will be introduced as they walk in and three quilts of valor will be presented. They can contact the school ahead of time to let organizers know their name, dates of service, rate and rank so that can be shared during their introduction. Students from the sophomore class serve as greeters for the veterans. Contact Mr. Rajala at drajala@solonk12.net or call 715-378-2263.

• The College of St. Scholastica hosts a dramatic poetry reading of an epic World War I poem, "In Parenthesis," at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the St. Scholastica Theater. The 1937 poem by David Jones, an artist, writer and WWI veteran, weaves together a tapestry of voices to convey the horrors of war and the enduring power of the human spirit. Free and open to the public.