WWII history a hit at Memorial Park

Photo by Becky Polaski – Memorial Park staff member Alex Minnick, right, and Steve Appleby, SFC U.S. Army retired, director of the Eldred WWII Museum, second from right, are shown interacting with attendees at Memorial Park’s World War II Day on Sunday.
Becky Polaski
Staff Writer

Visitors to Memorial Park on Sunday were able to go back in time to the 1940s and learn about a wide variety of things related to World War II during the park’s first World War II Day. Not only were a variety of artifacts on display from the war, but there were also speakers throughout the day discussing topics related to the war.
Local historian Ray Beimel addressed attendees at 1 p.m. regarding the war’s impact in St. Marys, and then Steve Appleby, SFC U.S. Army retired, director of the Eldred WWII Museum discussed the museum and veterans’ stories at 3 p.m.
St. Marys City Manager Tim Pearson stopped by for Beimel’s talk and remarked that he was impressed by the event, which was suggested and coordinated by Memorial Park staff member Alex Minnick, a recent graduate of St. Marys Area High School and a first-year summer worker at the park.
“I think it’s a really great idea and I think what’s even cooler is it started out with one of our summer workers. It was an idea started by them, not somebody in the city or somebody in management,” Pearson said.
A veteran himself, Pearson said that he enjoyed the atmosphere of the event, as well as having the opportunity to talk to all those who were sharing stories or had artifacts on display.
“It was great listening to Ray Beimel talk about the history of how St. Marys evolved in World War II, which I don’t think a lot of people realized how important our industry and the people in this town were during World War II,” Pearson said.
Pearson also expressed the hope that the event will become an annual one at the park.
“I hope that this is an event that we’ll continue to do in years to come,” he said.
Whether that happens will be up to the summer workers at the park, according to Memorial Park Director Jason Schreiber.
“Everything we do up here, I let my staff decide,” Schreiber said. “I want them to be passionate about something to do it. With a few exceptions, I let them pick things and then (assistant director Luke Daghir) and I go through and decide what we want to do. This is something I know Alex is passionate about. Hats off to Alex for all the work he put in.”
Schreiber admitted that when Minnick first approached him about the idea, he was unsure what to expect in terms of how the event would come together. Seeing how well it turned out, he credited Minnick for doing “a phenomenal job with everything” related to coordinating the event.
Minnick said that he was also pleased with the outcome, especially since the weather cooperated. While it was a little warmer than some may have liked, World War II Day was held under blue skies with abundant sunshine and no threat of inclement weather.
Given the warm temperatures though, a tent was set up for attendees to be able to sit in the shade during Beimel and Appleby’s talks. Memorial Park staff members also borrowed a golf cart to help transport people around the park if needed.
“This turned out really well,” Minnick said. “The weather was nice. We got a good crowd out. We’ve got some veterans out here. It’s really turned out to be a good event. I’m happy.”
Minnick added that he hopes to coordinate another similar event in the future if given the opportunity.