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Continued dedication: Fergus Falls Vets still creating connections in community

Fergus Falls Daily Journal - 11/10/2017

Nov. 10--While the staff at the Veterans Home of Fergus Falls serve their veterans every day, says Mark Kitzman, recreation therapy coordinator, Nov. 11 is one of their biggest days.

"Veterans Day is a big deal and while some people may just see it as a day off, most of our staff are working that day, helping to celebrate with our vets," Kitzman said.

At 9:30 a.m. Saturday, the Veterans Home invites the community and fellow veterans to have coffee and donuts with residents, an event the facility has been hosting for about 10 years.

"We see the Veterans Home as a resource to the community of Fergus Falls and surrounding areas and we have some real heros," Kitzman said. "It's a nice idea for any area veterans to have a cup of coffee and visit."

At 2 p.m. in the dining room of the Veterans Home, Ninth District VFW Commander Louis Kamrowski from Fergus Falls and District 9 Auxiliary President Diane Rux from Perham will be speaking. Following the speeches will be a prayer and a performance by the Veterans Home Choir. Scott Buchanan, Veterans Home administrator will say a few words with a powerpoint presentation showing pictures of each of the veterans who live at the home and a brief moment about their time served.

"Each one of our guys gets a moment of glory," Kitzman said.

The American Legion Post 32 will also provide a color guard along with the VFW providing a rifle squad.

In his years working at the Veterans Home, Kitzman has seen their Veterans Day services create amazing opportunities for veterans to connect and share memories.

"I have seen lots of touching moments when vets sit and visit with each other," Kitzman said. "Every time two vets sit down together there is an opportunity for sharing. I see lots of laughter and joke-telling and good humor. I see some some guys holding hands."

One resident in particular at the Veterans Home has dedicated a lot of his time to the program. Through his time in service and time volunteering in the community, Tom Willett and his daughter Terry Gervais know the importance of Veterans Day events.

"What helps here is it makes them feel appreciated. You wanted them to know they were important, not just forgotten," Gervais said to her dad, recalling the hours of service he dedicated to fellow veterans.

Deanna Mounts, development and volunteer services, couldn't be more grateful for the dedication and help Willett has not only given to the community, but to the veterans at the Veterans Home. She had asked Willett herself what the Veterans Home program meant to him and other veterans, but she realized that his answer lies in how Willett has spent his life.

"Tom demonstrated how important [the programs] are to him for years and years by coming here to the Veterans Home for many Veterans Day programs and participating in our program with the color guard," Mounts said. "Knowing Tom means understanding that it's actions not words that really have taught us so many valuable lessons."

Willett has volunteered for various programs, putting in hundreds of hours according to Mounts, helping with recreations events for the veteran residents by going fishing, bowling, to meal outings, baseball games and special events.

"He did this with a smile and people thought of him as a kind, gentle and dependable volunteer," Mounts said. "He has a compassionate, selfless type of love."

Before Willett became a volunteer then resident of the Veterans Home, he served in the navy for four years and served overseas for about three and a half of those years.

"My dad was in the army in World War I and I was in the Korean War," Willett said.

Mount said Willett once told her his story, and he worked on a ship in the engine room. He said it was an extremely hot and confining space and it was tough work.

"But he endured it," Mount said. "He had to."

After serving in the Navy, Willett served another 23 years in the Navy Reserve. Then, in 1972, he married Jane and moved to Fergus Falls. Mounts said at that time, Willett was a machine and welding teacher in the vocational building at Fergus Falls High School.

"I know if he taught with the passion he had when he volunteered at the Veterans Home, I know he was a great teacher," Mounts said.

A few weeks ago, the graduating class of '77 visited the Veterans Home to honor veterans and a few of the students visited Willett, remembering the impression he made on them as a teacher and a veteran.

After his teaching career, Willett joined the VFW Post 612 and has been an active member for many years, attending various meetings and helping with special projects. He is also a dedicated member of the color guard.

"After all the sacrifices made (by Tom and other veterans) and everything veterans have done they help make our world safer and a better place to live," Mounts said. "I think Veterans Day is an important holiday to pause and remember to thank our veterans."


(c)2017 the Fergus Falls Daily Journal (Fergus Falls, Minn.)

Visit the Fergus Falls Daily Journal (Fergus Falls, Minn.) at www.fergusfallsjournal.com

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