(Photo by John Cook) Where a long-inoperable water fountain used to sit in Vassar.

Serving those who served: Fountain removed for free

(Photo by John Cook) Where a long-inoperable water fountain used to sit in Vassar.
(Photo by John Cook) Where a long-inoperable water fountain used to sit in Vassar.

VASSAR — Earlier this month, workers tore down the walls – of a long-inoperable water fountain – and opened up a view of a five-piece granite veterans’ monument in downtown Vassar.

“The rubble’s gone and the city brought in some sand and we leveled the sand off and smoothed it all up,” said Randy Kern, owner of R. Kern & Son Excavating of Vassar Township, which tore down the two concrete walls of the fountain in Veteran Plaza, and removed the debris, at no charge.

Members of the Vassar Veterans Military Support Group have sought removal of the square walls of the two-tiered fountain, which hasn’t worked in years despite its position of prominence along East Huron Avenue (M-15), Vassar’s main drag.

Vassar City Manager Brian Chapman said a group of contractors, including Mark Cooper of Cooper Electric in Vassar, plan to construct a new fountain behind the monument.

“You can see the monument now – it’s cleared (the fountain) up and if they’re continuing with the project and it goes behind the monument, it’s a win for the city and a win for our group because it won’t be blocking our monument but it will be incorporated into it,” said Rick Miller, president of the military support group.

Kern figures visitors to downtown Vassar will find the new fountain location more serene.

“I was up there sitting on the park benches and I think (the fountain) is going to be much better behind the monument,” Kern said. “It’s a nice setting back there, it’s peaceful, it’s quiet and it’s more shaded and away from the street so you don’t hear the traffic noise.

“I think it’s going to be a great thing. That’s why we donated – because we love the community, we love the city and we’re very grateful for everything that all the veterans do for us. This is just our small way of being able to give something back to everybody.”

Chapman said the new fountain is “going to be in between a reflection pond and a full-out fountain, and there’s going to be a little bit of overflow with the water, a little bit of babbling water.”

Removal of the former fountain grants a full view of the veterans’ monument dedicated in 2013 and made of five pieces of granite quarried from Culpepper, Virginia and featuring a polished finish and laser-etched letters.

Capital Stoneworks L.L.C. of Saginaw County’s Bridgeport Township provided the granite pieces and laser etching – at cost, with no mark-up in price.

“A lot of people do these monuments with imported stone from overseas, because you can get it pretty inexpensively, but (veterans) wanted to source it from domestic material, so we were able to locate and source a domestic material,” said Brandon Hornung, owner of Capital Stoneworks.

“That was important to them, and we had the dark color range that they wanted.”

Brandon Hornung said workers with Hornung Construction of Vassar, owned by Henry Hornung, set the stones in place at Veteran Plaza. The five-piece monument is “in memory of all veterans, past, present and future.” One stone honors the Coast Guard, with others honoring the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

About 230 engraved bricks form the pavement in front of the five-piece monument – many in honor of those who served in the armed forces.

Miller said brick pavers remain for sale. Those wanting to buy one engraved in honor or in memory of a veteran may pick up a form at Vassar City Hall. Buyers also may contact a member of the Vassar Veterans Military Support Group or call Miller at 989-670-4306.

The Eaton Manufacturing employee veterans’ memorial also is in place at Veteran Plaza. The granite monument is inscribed with names of employees of the former Eaton foundry – now closed – who were lost in World War II.

Three names are engraved on the monument: Elmer Heidenberger, Herbert Loree and Hubert Reasor. A plaque attached to the monument years later recognizes Michael F. May, lost in the Vietnam era.

Brandon Hornung said Piazza Masonry of Vassar created the new foundation for the foundry monument, moved from the former foundry in September of 2015.

Chapman said local contractors have led the effort to demolish the non-working fountain at the plaza, and build a new one.

“It’s not necessarily a city-funded project,” Chapman said. “Our crews will do some work – a very minimal amount – just to help make that area functional.

“Anything with the water pipes under that area our city crews will handle. It’s a big project, it’s a great project and we’re really happy to get it moving forward, but it’s not 100 percent the city. It’s mostly volunteers that are putting the time and materials into that project.”

The water fountain was “nice at one time,” said Vassar city Councilman Dan Surgent, who said pranksters sometimes added laundry detergent to the water, creating piles of suds.

“You could see suds going right across (M-15), if the wind was blowing from the right direction,” Brandon Hornung said.

Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at gilchrist@tcadvertiser.com

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