Local Project Commemorates – and Illuminates – Veterans Memorial Bridge of Winamac
Writer / Mike Dikos
Photographer / Jubilee Edgell
One hundred. Standing by itself, that’s a pretty big number. $100. To many, a lot of money. 100 feet. Either 50 humans or a relatively great distance. 100 miles. An even greater distance. Insert 100 into the setting of time and the number becomes huge. Imagine the passing of 100 years. Imagine the events of life that have passed in that span of 100 years.
History is the passing of time – nothing more, nothing less. The way time is utilized dictates the way history is and will be written. The Veterans Memorial Bridge of Winamac, or simply, to many, the swinging bridge, will turn 100 years old come July. Withstanding a century of time, the bridge has a stoic history of its own.
Construction of the bridge began in April of 1923. Local engineer R.E. Nutt designed a plan that would create a bridge well above the yearly flood waters of the Tippecanoe River. The bridge was assembled in sections, very similar to the Sears kit homes that were very popular at the time. While under construction, and with the Great War still fresh in the minds of many, the town’s representatives decided the bridge should be named the Veterans Memorial Bridge to honor the soldiers and sailors from Pulaski County that served their country. Completed in July of the same year, the bridge connects the large and small sections of the town Park. Close to 40 acres provide an abundance of recreational activities along the riverfront.
Spanning the Tippecanoe River for a century, The bridge has been witness to more than most of us. World War War II. Sputnik. The Concorde. The United States putting a man on the moon. The Miracle on Ice. The fall of the Berlin Wall. September 11. Currently plans are underway to upgrade the bridge, and also celebrate its 100-year milestone of longevity.
What started out as a leisurely morning walk along the river turned into a three-year project of hard work, dedication and commitment. Founders and chairpersons of the Memorial Swinging Bridge Project, Greg and Brenda Henry, have a vision for the bridge that includes illumination. The Town of Winamac has been working diligently to complete repairs and upgrades to the bridge in time for its rededication and the completion of the project. Several art and landscaping projects by the Pulaski County Tribe further enhance this town landmark.
New decking has been installed, providing for a safe and sturdy walkway, concrete ramps at both entrances to the bridge will be improved, landscaping stone around the bases of the support pillars will assist with the dissipation of water, and colored lights installed will provide security as well as an element all its own – atmosphere. “The bridge is well-loved,” Brenda says. “Memories such as prom, unforgettable class photos and first kisses have all been shared here.”
Such an undertaking is no small task. The state, the county and individuals have all come together to see this project to fruition. Community organizations such as Kiwanis, The American Legion, and the VFW have provided donations. Major contributions came from CreatINg Places (IHCDA), Carroll White REMC Operation Roundup and the Community Foundation of Pulaski County. Many local corporations donated funds as well, both as financial contributors and as sponsors during various fundraising events. The Buy-A-Light program was established. Individuals have contributed monetarily and physically. All of these endeavors make this truly a community effort. “It’s something to see this amazing project coming to an end,” Greg says. Putting all of the fundraising efforts together, an accomplishment all its own, is the job of another local resident, Kathi Thompson. Thompson is also the designer of the website memorialswingingbridge.com, where one can find the history, how to donate, events and other information about the bridge.
Turning 100 is a major feat no matter how you look at it. On July 3, to celebrate this historic milestone and rededication, a day of entertaining activities is planned. Event Coordinator Melanie Berger is tasked with this challenge. The Culver Military Naval Band will perform just as they did at the original dedication in 1923. Dignitaries will speak. Baseball will be played. The Historical Society will be on hand. Concession stands will be present to provide some good eats. In a nutshell, a day of fun, camaraderie and remembrance.
Two of the most memorable events of the day will be the rededication and lighting of the bridge. Around 7 p.m., the bridge will be dedicated to all veterans, past, present and future, of Pulaski County. After sunset, with anticipation suspended in the air, the lights of the bridge will be illuminated for the first time, bringing to a climax the devotion and emotions of the day for this three-year project. Truly a day to remember.
Any inquiries can be directed at Greg or Brenda Henry at 574-242-1031.
Finally, when you do get the opportunity to stroll across the bridge, be it at this celebration or another time, stop in the middle. Put your hand on one of the suspension cables. Close your eyes. Feel the past…feel…the beyond.