Ralph Barrale had some high goals, and he always met them! His dream of a museum in St. Charles County that shares the story and honors all Veterans that have ever lived at some point in our county is a mighty tall order. Our Commander, we mean Chairman, enlisted quite a team from all over St. Charles County! He knew he couldn’t do this one alone.
Ralph has a lot of experience and quite a track record! He served in World War II in the Third Army under General George Patton and with the First Army. His experiences at the Battle of the Bulge and the horror of liberating those at the Dachau was the first recorded for the St. Charles County Veteran’s Oral History Project that will be shown in the Museum theater. Visitors will be able to hear first hand “Our Stories” like Ralph’s and other St. Charles County Veterans.
Ralph’s work did not end when he came home. When he felt there was not enough being done to honor returning veterans, he set to work getting the south outer road of Interstate 70 renamed through St. Charles County to Veterans Memorial Parkway. And if that wasn’t enough, then the Hwy 364 bridge across the Missouri River became the Veterans Memorial Bridge as well. Closer to home, in Lake St. Louis, he set to work with fellow veterans at the Veterans of the Foreign Wars Post 10350 on their Veterans Memorial.
A Planning Committee
Then a few years ago, looking at his own collection of memorabilia from his lifetime, he realized that there was no where for a St. Charles County Veteran to go with all of these memories. He had a vision of a museum for just such a purpose. He hesitated, stating
that if only he was 25 years younger, that would be his next goal. The team began to step up. The museum needed a building. City of O’Fallon’s Mayor Bill Hennessey said the City’s Annex Building at 410 East Elm would be a good location, if Prop Parks passed funding for a new Civic Center. That became a reality with a 59.7‰ approval by O’Fallon voters. In March, a lease was signed with the St. Charles County Veterans Museum and the City of O’Fallon allowing Ralph’s goal to take one step further. When the new Krekel Civic Center is opened this fall, the museum will move in, and the work of creating a museum begins. Ralph envisions the museum as a place where the visitors say “Wow, what a place!” and that is a tall order.
Team Planning has already begun
The team put together by Ralph has not been idle. Others have joined in and begun work on other parts of the mission. The Executive team are Terri Violet, a City of St. Peters Alderman, and a U.S. Navy Veteran; Renee Essary, who has served four years active duty in the Air Force and six years in the Missouri Air National Guard, and who now serves as Treasurer and Jim Higgins, who rounds out the Executive Committee serving as Operations and Financial Planning. Working closely with Ralph, the Executive Committee has the support of an even larger team, that serve on subcommittees for Acquisitions and Exhibits, Marketing and Development, and Operations. In addition to the subcommittees, Dorris Keeven-Franke, shares her experience as a curator and archivist. All are working to make the museum a reality. Keeven-Franke, is working with others on the committee, in collecting the stories of veterans that will be shared in the museum’s small theater. Mike “Taco” Sanchez has been spending hundreds of hours, as the museum’s registrar, inventorying the artifacts received so far as donations. We hope every St. Charles County family considers sharing their veterans memories with us.
Others such as Carolyn Foushee have stepped up as Recording Secretary, keeping everyone on track with her fantastic minutes and detailed Agendas. Eric Larson heads the Exhibit Committee, with members Craig Stankovich, Dennis Wiss, John Roth, Mike Sanchez, and Keeven-Franke. Marketing and Development Committee is led by Essary, with Higgins, Ralph “Sal” Barrale, Jr. and Keeven-Franke. Ralph “Sal” Barrale, Jr. is taking charge of the museum’s gift shop. Jim Frain, long time resident of O’Fallon, had said to Ralph “well I’m 25 years younger” and that he would help. Other members are Arthur Minor, and Devin Benning. All serve completely as volunteers who are working together as a team towards making the museum a reality.
Dreams and goals like a museum take money. Fortunate in the way the community has stepped up so far with donations of everything from memorabilia to display cases, there are still things that such donations don’t cover. Everything from construction costs in
converting the Annex into a museum, to items like security, computers and video screens are needed. Working on a tight budget, efforts such as a Gun Raffle and Trivia Night are already on the calendar. “There is so much more that goes into making an exhibit than people realize” says curator Keeven-Franke. Plans are already in the works for a “soft opening” in late January. Plans are to have the building open and fully functioning as a museum in April of 2019. More volunteers are needed. “We will be announcing a program for sponsorships soon” giving the community more ways for everyone to get involved and support Ralph’s dream of a museum for Veterans where every visitor leaves saying “Wow what a place!”
We are always looking for more support, memorabilia and other donations. With the mission of “Inspiring, informing, and engaging the residents of St. Charles County to honor the memories of County Veterans who served the United States of America with patriotic valor” this entire group feels strongly that “every St. Charles County veteran has a story”. We want the museum to be a place that serves the entire community, as a place for families to share with their children and grandchildren, and honors all St. Charles County veterans. These are the men and women who have stepped up and taken the pledge to put their life on the line for their country. The message that “freedom isn’t always free” and the price that many have paid, will be part of the “story” that the St. Charles County Veterans Museum will be able to share. We want future generations to understand the sacrifices that have been made.
The St. Charles County Veterans Museum is a 501.C3 organization and all donations are tax deductible as allowed by law. (Please see your tax consultant for more information.) We welcome donations of any size, and appreciate everyone’s support. Many have been supportive already and we will be happy to add your name along with our other Donors. As an NGO the museum does not receive any government funding.
Thank You! For more information or to contact any member on the Committee you can do so by using the contact form below…
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