ST. JOSEPH — St. Joseph’s Lake Bluff Park is lined with monuments to the veterans of conflicts from World War I through Vietnam, along with a memorial honoring police officers killed in the line of duty, and a statue saluting the firefighters who died at the Yore Opera House fire in 1896.
Soon individual military veterans, along with law enforcement officers and firefighters, can be recognized here thanks to the generosity and patriotism of a local businessman.
On Monday, city commissioners gave their permission for Carl Meyer, chairman and CEO of Michiana Land Services, to create banners that will be displayed along Lake Boulevard.
Meyer said his company has long tried to honor veterans, by sponsoring a free breakfast before the annual Memorial Day parade for those who served, and free ice cream at Kilwin’s.
His interest in recognizing veterans became even more urgent after his sons Zach and Joshua, both college graduates with corporate positions, enlisted in the Marines following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The men served for 10 years, including overseas in the intelligence division, following family members who also served in the military.
Meyer said he was driving through Stevensville and noted the banners there for veterans, and wondered why St. Joseph couldn’t do something similar. From his fourth-floor office window in the 505 Pleasant Street building, he noticed that brackets for banners were already installed on 14 light poles along the bluff.
He said he plans to take applications for banners from families, who can submit a photo in uniform, along with their dates of service.
The first banner produced was for Walter Zych, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1952 to 1960. The Benton Harbor resident, who died last year at 85, was also a Berrien County sheriff’s deputy, was president of the Berrien County Neighborhood Watch, co-founded the Berrien County Community Restorative Justice Board, and managed the victim’s services unit with his wife, Shirley, when it was created in 2009. He also was a project manager for Michiana Land Services, which handles utility projects.
Meyer said he planned to approach Sheriff Paul Bailey about having banners placed for Joseph Zangaro and Ron Kienzle, courthouse officers who were shot and killed by an escaping prisoner in 2016.
Meyer would like to have 14 banners up at a time from April through Nov. 11, Veterans Day. The banners will be rotated every two months to put up new faces, he told commissioners. The banners will then be donated to the families.
Greg Grothous, assistant director of public works, said hanging the banners would be a little bit of extra work for parks staff, adding that it would be easier than putting banners up on busy Main Street.
Commissioners expressed their appreciation for the offer.
“This is very thoughtful, and very patriotic,” Mayor Mike Garey said.
Those who would like to apply for a banner can contact Carl Meyer at 208-0155, or at CMeyer@michianalandservices.com.
Contact: jmatuszak@TheHP.com, 932-0360, Twitter: @HPMatuszak