Center Junction honors local veterans, heroes

On May 18, the veterans’ wall inside the renovated Center Junction community center will be unveiled. The wall contains the photos and names of over 150 Center Junction-area veterans from the War of 1812 to the recent combats in Afghanistan and Iraq. The project was led by Carol Barnes and Chad and Connie Rubner. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

Center Junction-area veterans will soon be recognized and honored for their years of service. 

About a year ago, Chad and Connie Rubner purchased the old Center Junction park and community center. At one time inside the building, veterans’ photos were displayed on the wall. Rubner and his mother-in-law, life-long Center Junction resident Carol (Thomsen) Barnes, are working to restore the wall of veterans in time for Armed Forces Day. 

The unveiling will be held on May 18. The public is invited to attend the event in which over 150 veterans’ photos will be showcased on the north wall inside the community building. 

Each photo measures 5x7 and includes the veteran’s name, branch of service, years served, and war/combat he/she served in (if applicable). 

While the Rubners purchased the property a year ago, it was only a little over a month ago Barnes started the arduous task of collecting photos of Center Junction veterans. 

“I lived my whole life here, and people started commenting that the (veterans) photos were gone,” Barnes said. 

Once her son-in-law had the property, they began the task of collecting and finding the photos that once decorated the wall. 

“Both my father and father-in-law were veterans,” said Rubner, another reason for his passion. 

Despite not growing up in Center Junction, Rubner said he feels like he’s already learned so much about the town. 

Aside from a wall dedicated to the veterans, photo collages will also adorn the west and south walls inside the community center. The west wall will feature historic photos of the history of Center Junction. The south wall will be devoted to the former Center Junction school. The bottom half of the wall is already painted purple and gold, the school colors. 

The school mascot was the mustang, but not the horse, as most people would think. The mascot was the mustang, a Greek mythological god. 

Throughout the process of sifting through photos and gathering information, Rubner said he’s been hearing so many stories about Center Junction. 

His passion for the former town, now unincorporated, is another reason he purchased the park and community center. 

“I didn’t want a junk yard in the middle of town,” he said. “We don’t want to see it go downhill.” 

The Rubners plan to rent out the facility once some minor repairs are complete. 

In order to acquire the photos of the veterans, Barnes and Shirley (Hansen) Coon have been making multiple phone calls contacting anyone and everyone who used to reside in Center Junction. 

“I’ve made hundreds and hundreds of phone calls,” Barnes said. 

Coon has also been doing research online to find family of former veterans to track down the photos. 

“Shirley is doing all of the online work,” praised Barnes. “She’s a god-send.” 

Barnes has also been going through the Center Junction centennial book, which contains a list of area veterans. 

The veterans cover wars/ combats from WWI to the most recent service in Afghanistan and Iraq. Barnes said they’ve come across Center Junction veterans who served in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. 

“They’re all veterans,” she said of military service. 

Right now, they estimate about 150 photos, which will thoroughly cover the wall. Some of the names people might be familiar with include: Gail Williams, Kenneth Smith, Dillon Mead, and the McCullough brothers. The photos have come from as far as Oregon, California, and Minnesota. 

For those service photos they can’t get their hands on, Barnes is resorting to using their high school graduation photo until a military photo can be found. 

There are several photos of generations of various families from Center Junction as well, grandfathers, sons and grandsons. 

In addition to securing the photos, Barnes said she is also hearing so many stories about these Center Junction heroes. She plans to type up the stories and compile them into a book in the near future. 

“We had two POWs from Center Junction,” said Barnes. “I can’t believe that. You can’t help but tear up a bit.” 

The May 18 unveiling will begin at 1 p.m. A lunch will be served, with proceeds going toward to upkeep and maintenance of the park and community center. The Anamosa VFW will present the flag at the start of the ceremony, as well as a gun salute. Becky DirksHaugsted from Anamosa will speak about the various service medals and recognition the veterans received. All of the American Legion posts in Jones County are encouraged to attend as well. 

To keep up on the project, be sure to “like” the “Center Junction – What’s Happening” page. 


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