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Veterans Memorial Park

Dixon's war veterans memorial

Ill. Hwy. 2 & Palmyra Ave. • Dixon, Ill.
While many towns have areas dedicated to their veterans, this one is especially impressive. Several amazing items are on display.

There’s a Cobra AH-1F helicopter; an M-60 main battle tank; a U.S. Navy Lightweight Mark 2 anchor, weighing 6,600 lbs.; a 155mm Howitzer; a 1967 field ambulance, model 37; an F-105 Thunderchief jet fighter. Mortars and bombshells, noses up, serve as markers throughout the park.

Planning began in 1995, and the park was dedicated on Aug. 22, 2004, with the setting of a granite stone at the entrance. Also at this time, at the entrance, was the unveiling of the first walkway, made up of 96 Legacy Stones. Purchased by veterans or their families, each is inscribed with a veteran’s name, his or her branch of the military and years served. More than 250 have been put into place so far.

Other additions: a flagpole array, representing all military branches as well as POWs/MIAs, accented with a lighted dancing fountain; a bronze plaque, commemorating those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks; the park sign, bearing a replica of a Purple Heart and battlefield cross; and an Armed Forces Monument, guarded by an eternal flame. For rest and reflection, there are numerous benches.

The park is a work in progress. The fighter jet was added in April 2010. Ceremonies to mark the installation of new Legacy Stones continue to be scheduled, with proceeds used to maintain the park.

“Lest we forget,” read the words over the entrance. The park is open to the public year-round.

Egyptian Theatre

Egyptian Theatre, DeKalb, Ill.

113 N. 2nd St., DeKalb, Ill. • (815) 758-1215, egyptiantheatre.org
This 1929 art deco building pays homage to the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II, with a 20-foot-tall stained glass window over the marquee, flanked by two large pharaohs. It has 40-foot ceilings in the lobby, richly-colored plastered walls and pillars entwined with serpents in the main theater.

The outside looks like the gate of a great temple, and the window has a sacred scarab. A sunburst tops the ticket window in the foyer. The main lobby has the original multicolored mosaic floor; eight decorated pillars, each topped with gold falcon’s wings, rise to the ceiling. The original double staircase at the end of the lobby leads to the mezzanine and balcony, its landing adorned with a milky, lotus-patterned chandelier commissioned for the theater.

In the 1970s, citizens formed Preserve the Egyptian Theatre (P.E.T.), eventually restoring the stunning movie palace. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Today, the building is scheduled for more than 100 events annually.

After 30 years, repairs are once again needed, but the group remains dedicated to preserving this theater, and is working to raise $2.6 million for that purpose. ❚

Hoo’s Woods Raptor Center

Hoo's Woods, Milton, Wis.

PO Box 21, Milton, Wis. • (608) 883-2795, hooswoods.org
Dianne Moller, founder of this raptor education and rehabilitation center, was working as a receptionist for a veterinarian 15 years ago. People would bring in injured and orphaned wild animals, but vets often wouldn’t treat them, being unfamiliar with their medical needs.

There was a need for rehabbers who specialize in raptors, since many wildlife rehabilitators focus on smaller birds and mammals. “I’ve always loved wildlife, especially birds of prey, and I saw a need for someone who could help, so I got into it,” Moller says. “I took classes and apprenticed for a year with an experienced rehabber. I need to maintain both state and federal licenses, and I keep learning and growing.”

Her most important goal is education and stewardship. She maintains eight education birds and presents upwards of 100 educational programs per year in Wisconsin, in addition to rehabilitating her charges. Recently, she nurtured and released three baby kestrels, whose mother was killed as a result of spring storms.

There’s an increasing need for young people to become wildlife rehabilitators, as many local ones are beginning to age. This might be an especially tough gap to fill, according to Moller, since the state recently implemented stricter guidelines, increasing apprenticeship from one to four years. Also, rehabbers receive no government funding, relying solely on private sponsorship and donations.

“The medicine to treat a bird suffering from lead poisoning, ingested from shot or fishing tackle, for example, costs $500,” she explains. “The cost of treatment is the responsibility of the rehabber.”

It takes a special kind of dedication, but people like Moller, and places like Hoo’s Woods, are helping to ensure that future generations will continue to enjoy the abundant natural wonders of our Old Northwest Territory.

BONUS:

Read more about our region’s unique character in Genuine Northwest Passions.

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