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New life for Crystal Lake cemetery’s old guard

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CRYSTAL LAKE – Entering Union Cemetery off Woodstock Road in Crystal Lake, one is greeted by the statue of a soldier. He keeps a watchful eye over the names of the fallen.

On Sunday afternoon, members of the Crystal Lake Historical Society, American Legion Post 171 and other supporters of the Union Soldier Restoration Project gathered to place a time capsule into the base of the statue.

“It’s our mission to chronicle and be the caretakers of history,” said historical society Vice President Ann Viger. “We want to remember those who served us and this ceremony is a great way for us to observe Veterans Day.”

The zinc statue erected in 1889 commemorates McHenry County veterans dating from the Revolutionary War to current campaigns in Afghanistan. It recently went through a six-year renovation to straighten the soldier, recast his musket, which had been stolen, reinforce the base with stainless steel and improve the landscaping.

Chris O’Connor, an Army veteran and member of American Legion Post 171 and the historical society, presented the time capsule with Mike Czosnyka, the chairman and fellow member of the Union Soldier Statue Restoration Committee.

“It is a mechanism for Crystal Lake residents to remember veterans now and for future generations,” O’Connor said. “It was really sad to see the state of the statue before the restoration. They don’t make statues like this anymore and it will truly stand the test of time.”

The time capsule is filled with items of the statue’s history and renovation – a list of major donors to the project, pre- and post-renovation photos, historical newspaper articles, the names of restoration project volunteers, fundraising flyers and historical society newsletters chronicling the restoration.

Navy veterans and Crystal Lake residents Jim Dyson and Tom Aellig attended to show support for their fellow veterans and admire the time and handiwork of their American Legion Post 171.

“We’re able to stand here and honor our fellow veterans because we’re still around,” Aellig said. “We’re here to honor those names on the statue that unfortunately can’t be here.”

“This is great legacy for our post,” Dyson said. “We were a big part of this project and we look forward to future generations enjoying it.”

The time capsule is stainless steel and was wrapped in protective plastic before being lowered into the base of the statue and sealed. The capsule will remain unopened until Sept. 11, 2089, the statue’s 200th birthday.

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