When he had to move from his home in Freetown to Hoosier Christian Village in Brownstown, Ron Cornett found his father’s Army jacket in a closet.
Since he couldn’t take it with him, his daughter, Robin Perry, donated the jacket and other military memorabilia to the Jackson County History Center in Brownstown.
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The items are now in a secure place inside the Frederick Keach Heller Memorial Museum Building on the center’s campus at the opposite end of the assisted living facility on Sugar Street.
“I’m proud of my daddy,” Cornett, 80, said of his father, Winfred. “I’m proud of what he did. He was a wonderful daddy.”
Winfred’s military memorabilia are in a display case inside the entrance to the museum along with other items donated by people over the years.
It’s all part of the history center’s tribute to the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. That was supposed to be the theme of the antique building at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Brownstown during this year’s county fair, but the fair was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
History center volunteers decided to go on with the tribute, and the items can be viewed by appointment by calling 812-358-2118.
Along with Winfred’s memorabilia, there are uniforms, newspaper clippings, an organ from the Freeman Army Airfield chapel and other items from veterans of World War II and other wars in the museum, which also includes a Civil War room.
“We just thought we might have people come in and want to look at some of the stuff,” history center volunteer Dorothy Richards said of offering the tribute.
The display will remain in place through the remainder of the year, and items may be donated to add to the collection.
“We want people to know that we are still here,” volunteer Margo Brewer said.
“You would be surprised how many people come from all over the United States and they always say, ‘Boy, we don’t have anything like this at home. How do you guys do this?’” volunteer Bill Day said of the nonprofit center that’s run by volunteers. “We’re self-sustaining.”
Ron Cornett said his family lived in Indianapolis when his father was drafted into the U.S. Army. Winfred trained at Camp Blanding in Florida before serving in Germany during World War II.
Winfred served as an infantryman and later told Ron stories of the Germans firing upon him and his fellow American troops.
When Winfred returned home, he arrived on a boat and saw the Statue of Liberty in New York.
“He loved that. He said, ‘I saw that and I knew we were home,’” Ron said.
Ron later worked at Arvin Industries in Columbus for a while before serving with the Army National Guard for six years. He was a specialist third class with a tank battalion. He trained in Wisconsin and Kentucky before settling in Michigan.
“I spent a lot of time in that. I really loved it, and I got my honorable discharge,” Ron said.
He later worked four and a half years at H.O. Canfield in Seymour before retiring after 30 years at Cummins Inc. in Columbus.
History center volunteer Glen Killey also has his military uniform on display in the museum. He served as a machine gunner for the U.S. Marine Corps from 1953 to 1956, including spending time in Korea.
Killey, Day and fellow history center volunteer Tom Cooley all served in the military voluntarily. Cooley was in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1958 to 1962, while Day served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956.
Killey and Day both have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War and relatives who served in various branches of the military and different wars, so that inspired them to enlist.
“I got my first college degree on the GI Bill in education,” said Day, who worked in that field for 38 years in Brownstown and Seymour. “I got a couple more from IU (Indiana University) later, but the first one there I would have never received if it hadn’t been for the GI Bill.”
Day said it meant a lot to him to serve the country.
“I really feel like you should give back to your city, your country,” he said. “I wanted to serve in the service. We all three volunteered. We didn’t have to go. We all volunteered because we felt like that was our duty.”
Cooley said both of his brothers were in the U.S. Army at the same time he served.
“Adventurous is what it is,” he said. “Being in the service, you went in for the adventure of it.”
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What: World War II tribute
Where: Frederick Keach Heller Memorial Museum Building on the Jackson County History Center campus, 105 N. Sugar St., Brownstown
When: Call 812-358-2118 to schedule an appointment to visit