A place to remember

Published 11:04 am Wednesday, November 10, 2004

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Cassopolis Vigilant
MARCELLUS - Lessons in history come alive when instead of walking through pages of a history book, you are taken on a real walk through the years of service of our American veterans.
The Veterans' Museum at the VFW in Marcellus opens with the words "Reflections lest we forget." Anyone would be hard pressed not to be moved following a tour through the rooms set aside for each major period in our military history.
Beginning with the Revolutionary War an explorer and settler greet visitors. Actual objects used by the ancestors of this area are showcased and displayed.
Whether original mess kits, rifles or uniforms, the museum gives a look into the past.
Marilyn Thomas of Dowagiac remembers her father's grandfather, was in the Civil War, as she walks with the other members of the Captain Samuel Felt Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution members Monday.
The tour guide was also the curator, Wilber Breseman, who along with his brother and family, put heart and soul into both the building and the displays.
Breseman mentions while on tours, sometimes visitors find out things they never knew, like the man who learned his father served in the Spanish American War.
Moving into the World War II room must have been especially moving as the women were especially silent. This was the time they remember. Headlines shout out of the front pages of The Elkhart Truth and The Kalamazoo Gazette after major battles took place.
As a backdrop for a real machine gun and 150 pound artillery shell, a 36 foot long and six foot high mural dominates the room. This, along with many others showing tanks, soldiers and battles, were painted by Breseman's nephew Tony Breseman, whom he added had no formal art training.
The Viet Nam room, "my era," said Breseman, who served in that conflict, has mannequins of both soldiers and their enemy in a jungle setting.
The son of a DAR member, Jean Cline, now deceased, is honored with a display inside with his last letter he sent home, and a Huey helicopter outside the museum. Ralph Clime was the one person form Marcellus killed in Nam.
A Sister Lakes man, John Spivey, gave his most prized possession to the museum - his airline ticket home.
Ninety-five percent of what is in the museum came from a 10 mile radius, said Breseman. DAR member Jane Wagel of Dowagiac pointed out her husband Bob's U.S. Air Force uniform. He is the chairman of the Cass County Commissioners.
Dave Thornton of Marcellus, a graduate of Niles who served in Army in World War II, praised Breseman for all the work he and his brother and son did on the museum. "They built 90 percent," he said. Much of the materials, such as bricks and concrete were donated. He took the women outside to see the helicopter, Iwa Jima memorial and tank.
On Sunday, Thornton had returned to Niles, where he graduated, to attend the dedication and unveiling of the Veterans Memorial in RIverfront Park. "I thought it was wonderful," he said. "I found my brick and my cousin's and my brother's."
Sue Stickle of Marcellus, who tagged along with the DAR tour, went through the Marcellus VFW for the first time. Her father Ward E. "Everett" Douglas has also served in World War II. A son-in-law, who was in Desert Storm, her husband in the Korean War, and son, all served in the Air FOrce.
The museum is open along with the VFW canteen every day at 3 p.m. and at noon on weekends.