BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) - Historical WWI and WWII veteran plaques were found last spring, collecting dust, at a local Beatrice business preparing for a relaunch.
Now, less than a year later, those same plaques are to be preserved pro-bono by another local Beatrice business.
Dempster Industries (now Dempsters LLC) is one of the oldest businesses in Beatrice, known for their windmills. The company was essentially out of business since 2011, until it came into new ownership.
Last winter Dempsters LLC moved into their building on South Sixth Street, as they prepared to restart their spreaders line - it was here employees found the plaques.
“We found them just prior to getting things back up and running,” owner Ryan Mitchell told the Beatrice Daily Sun (https://bit.ly/1zzuZ9W). “We wanted to make sure they’re properly preserved as opposed to going somewhere where they’re not appreciated.”
Mitchell said the company had intentions of cleaning up the plaques, which he described as being “very well done and neat,” but thought the plaques would be better suited with a professional.
That’s when Mitchell contacted Pat Ratigan at Ratigan-Schottler, a six-decade-old church furniture manufacture, about preserving them.
“We said, ‘Absolutely and we’re doing that pro bono,’” Ratigan said. “We appreciate our veterans. There’s several veterans in our family. This is something that we can do to help honor men and women that have put themselves on the line for us. And it’s historical. Dempsters has been around forever. There’s a lot of history there.”
Mitchell also comes from a family with a military background. He was a tank commander with the Canadian Army in Bosnia and Croatia from 2004-05.
Just last month Mitchell left the Canadian Army after 18 years of service.
“I’ve done about 8-10 training exercises with American Marines personally, and overseas we were obviously part of a joint command with American soldiers…and we were in there with them in Bosnia and Croatia,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s very important to preserve (the plaques) especially because of the sacrifices they’ve made and not only that but the people back home and the sacrifices they’ve made.”
The process of preserving the plaques will begin in about two weeks. Ratigan said he and two others will take the plaques apart and determine what needs to be done. Then the cleaning process will begin.
“There will be quite a process involved,” Ratigan said. “We’re going to restore the plaques as much as we can. One thing we don’t want to do is destroy the original integrity. They’re made out of paper, wood and I think they’re hand painted.
“The first thing we’ll do is clean it then enhance everything we can. We’ll be cleaning the paint, fixing the wood, repairing and trying to make it look new…We want it to be clean and protected for the future, and look nice but not destroy the original plaque.”
Ratigan isn’t sure when the plaques will be completely done due to it being a “delicate process,” but once they are done, he and Mitchell plan on presenting the plaques, together, to the Veterans Club in Beatrice.
Mitchell said he and his employees don’t know much about the plaques and are currently trying to find out more about them.
Anyone with information about the WWI and WWII plaques can contact Dempsters LLC at 402-806-4800.
Information from: Beatrice Sun, https://www.beatricedailysun.com
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