Craycraft continues effort to rebuild Belding freedom wall

By Lori Hansen • Last Updated 1:57 pm on Friday, October 28, 2011

Denny Craycraft wants to rebuild the Freedom Wall next to the Freedom Tree on Bridge Street near the historic Pere Marquette Depot.

BELDING – Denny Craycraft showed Belding City Council members a simple blue star, its color dulled over time.
He explained that the star belongs to Paul Braman and is inscribed with Braman’s name. The star once was displayed on Belding’s Freedom Wall.

“This is what it is all about,” said Craycraft, an active member of the Belding Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.

Craycraft began a campaign in July 2010 to restore a Freedom Wall that once stood near the corner of Bridge and Main streets, on the site now occupied by the 1950s addition to the Gibson Building.

The wall was about 24 feet long, 12 feet high and 1.5 feet deep. It contained 720 stars of Belding-area veterans, including those from Orleans and Grattan areas. Blue Star Mothers originally built it in 1942 to honor World War II veterans.

“This one is going on the new wall, too, linking the new wall and the old wall,” Craycraft said.

Craycraft has plans to rebuild the Freedom Wall next to the Freedom Tree on Bridge Street near the historic Pere Marquette Depot.

Craycraft told the council that area residents once believed a windstorm in 1945 knocked the wall down and the lumber was sold to a Long Lake cottage owner due to a lumber shortage during the war.

However, he said further research has turned up information that the wall was decommissioned on Nov. 11, 1948, and torn down to make was for Gibson to expand its refrigerator plant.

The street had been a four-lane boulevard with the wall located on the grassy, park-like area. The company’s expansion lead to the street being changed to a smaller, two lane drive and the wall was torn down.

“But now we have some closure on it, we know the reason behind it,” Craycraft said.

He is compiling information to put into a booklet on the history of the wall and will sell copies as a fund raising promotion to earn money for the new monument.

“I’ve gotten over some hurdles and have not even started fundraising yet, but already have over $2,000 pledged,” Craycraft said. “People are excited and most importantly should be proud of your community and the men and women who served from here.”

Craycraft is hoping to raise $7,000 to $9,000 to cover costs of rebuilding the wall.

“I do have a plea to the town. If anyone knows of any relatives’ names that were on the wall, please let me know,” he said. “Of the names on the original, there are 174 I do not have yet.”

Craycraft said the restored Freedom Wall will be a replica of its predecessor and will be limited to the names already placed on it.

“There are veterans from the Vietnam War, Korean War, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabian wars. We do not want to take anything away from them, but want to stick with the original Freedom Wall,” said Craycraft.

Councilman Mike Scheid is pleased to hear the wall is going back up.

“It will be something for the people of the community to once again recognize those who put their lives on the line for us to give us the freedom we have to meet like this,” he said. “It is great it is going up. It is the bright spot of this meeting.”

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