Time to celebrate

American Legion Post 49’s Veterans Memorial Wall is shown overlooking Water Street in South Haven. The wall was constructed nine years ago. However, it took the legion until now to pay off the $360,000 that was necessary to pay for construction of the wall. The legion will celebrate paying off their debt with a mortgage burning ceremony, at 1 p.m. Sunday. Aug. 18. 

SOUTH HAVEN — It used to be common for homeowners to celebrate paying off their home mortgages by throwing a mortgage burning ceremony.

That tradition will be relived in a big way on Sunday, Aug. 18, when the American Legion Post 49 throws a party to celebrate paying off a $360,000 debt for construction of its outdoor Veterans Memorial Wall.

The event will begin at 1 p.m. at the legion, 129 Michigan Ave. The mortgage burning ceremony will then follow at 1:30 p.m., with keynote remarks by former Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker. Musical entertainment and food will then be offered.

The stone retaining wall spans two blocks along Water Street and serves as a protection for the legion hall and property that sits atop a hill on Michigan Avenue, overlooking South Haven’s harbor.

The Veterans Memorial Wall is an attractive part of the landscape that people can view while on their way to and from South Beach. However, it came at a steep price for the legion, which had to take out a mortgage on their hall and property to help finance the project, initially.

It took legion members eight years to pay off the debt for the wall, according to Linda Teeter, who began chairing the legion’s fundraising committee in 2018.

“The saying ‘It takes a village’ fits for the post,” she said. “Everyone worked together with the sole purpose to retire the debt so that they could provide more services to veterans and their families.”

By 2018, post members had whittled the debt down to $130,000 through a donor program and with a series of fundraisers, pizza nights and other special meals.

The City of South Haven this year kicked in $18,000 for public improvements made to the property and then the icing on the cake, so to speak, came through in the form of an $85,000 state grant sponsored in 2018 by then Sen. Schuitmaker.

A retaining wall had always been in place on the legion’s property. However, by 2010 it became obvious it needed to be replaced.

“The entire embankment collapsed in late 2010,” Teeter said.