This Memorial Day weekend, become a “civilian hero” by joining forces to create new war memorials
Bob and Pat Ross were patriots whose legacy of land giving should plant the seed of similar generosity in the minds of their fellow Americans.
In 1998, the late couple donated two acres of their 10-acre horse farm to the Friends of Veterans Memorial Parkway, which eventually became the site of the Lake County Korean Veterans Memorial, dedicated in 2003. Their donation cemented lasting honor to the 101 Lake County Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Korean War, as well as those who served in that war.
“Bob and Pat are truly great American patriots,” said FVMP board member Paul Reed. “They proudly and generously donated these two acres of their property.”
The couple were strong supporters of the Memorial Parkway, viewing their civic duty as a military-oriented mission. Pat, who passed away in 2018, served as the organization’s treasurer for many years. Bob, who died in 2015, helped with the regular upkeep of the memorial site. Together they prepared the given ground and transported building materials using their familiar team of Clydesdale horses.
“My dad spent his whole life working with draft horses, so when it came to doing things in the park, it was only natural for him to use horses to get the job done,” Gale said. Ross, the couple’s son who lives in Warrensburg, Missouri. “He used his team of draft horses to move materials, build the fence around the park, and establish the little patch of grassland in the middle of the park.”
Since his youth, Bob Ross had been involved in his community, no matter where he lived or how he could help.
“Whether it was as a volunteer firefighter, leading a team of horses in a parade, or riding children on a hay wagon behind his horses, he really enjoyed being around people and helping out,” his son said. “Both Bob and Pat were honored to be able to donate the land for this park.”
At 1 p.m. Monday, Friends of the Veterans Memorial Parkway will honor the couple — heralded as civilian heroes — by dedicating a one-acre meadow at the site. It decorates the intersection of 145th Avenue and US 231, just east of the hamlet of Leroy. The Memorial Day inauguration will take place during the organization’s annual flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremony. Guests are welcome.
“We are eternally grateful for Bob and Pat’s dedication,” said Mitch Barloga, president of the organization.
Its mission is to continue the Parkway’s series of projects by creating a lasting tribute to honor the service members of Northwest Indiana who have served and sacrificed for our country. Currently, two such projects have been completed: the Lake County Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean Veterans Memorial.
Two more are in development – the Lake County World Wars I & II Veterans Holocaust Memorial and the Northwest Indiana Middle East Veterans Memorial. Earlier this month, the FVMP and the City of Crown Point signed a memorandum of understanding granting the organization access to Sauerman Woods Park to develop the First and Second World Wars memorial.
“Moving the memorial to Sauerman Woods allows the community to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice year-round, not just on certain holidays,” said Crown Point Mayor David Uran.
The FVMP, created in 2001, will design the site this year, construction will begin in 2023 and then continue for the next few years. Eventually, the larger plan is to erect more than a dozen similar memorials along the 15-mile boardwalk. Opened in 1994 by the Indiana Legislature, it is located in central Lake County and part of Porter County along US 231 from Hebron to St. John.
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“Bob and Pat Ross could have done other things with their property. But they had generous hearts and thought of the public and these veterans,” said John Stacks, a Vietnam War veteran who founded the Veterans Memorial. Parkway.
In 1998, Bob Ross approached Stacks with a unique proposal from locals. Stacks graciously accepted the donation from the couple, whose former home overlooked the memorial site.
“The first time I saw that American flag and heard it flapping in the wind, it did,” Pat Ross told the Post-Tribune in 1999 when the couple received a “Champion of the Parkway” for their donation.
My hope with this Memorial Day column is to inspire future “civilian heroes” to make similar donations in honor of the local soldiers who made the ultimate donation. This can be done not only with donated land, but also with time, money, resources and support for these war memorials. Join the effort at www.vetparkway.com.
Stacks, who is considered the “Father of the Walk,” sums it up best: “People can serve their country without serving in the military. That’s one way to do it.