Aurora Alumni Center projects continue to pay homage to veterans, history

The summer 2023 projects at the Aurora Houn’ Dawg Alumni & Outreach Center are on display at 409 W. Locust.

Raine Clotfelter, America’s Muralist, completed a three-dimensional art project above the entryway at what is known as the Old Armory. The historic eagles and stars and stripes above each of the three doorways have received some muralistic attention in recent weeks.

Working on a separate, but connected project, has been local artist–Diana Estes. Estes added a folk art piece of an Americana quilt–with the words All Roads Lead Home on it–on the east wall of the ramp. That piece connects the entryway mural to the All Roads Lead Home Veterans Honor Garden at the site.

Both artists feel led and blessed by God to create and implement their work with people and communities they have grown to love. Their work has made good on a promise made 80-plus years ago to the Aurora community.

“I do what I do because I love art,” explained Clotfelter, “I believe it makes people happy.” He quoted Ecclesiastes 3:22 and maintained the need to “preserve history and our patriotism” across our nation.

Other phases of the project have included an All Roads Lead Home Pavilion with memorial benches honoring longtime educator David Stephens, former Aurora mayor Dan Broyles and longtime voice of the Houn’ Dawgs and Aurora graduate Randy Estes. The pavilion was constructed during 2020 through a grant received through local realtor Matt Maples and the Southwest Missouri Realtors.

The flag poles featuring the American flag, the Missouri Flag and the Houn’ Dawg flag were placed as a holiday project in late 2021 in honor of the Houn’ Dawg Unit, which has over 100 years of military history and connections here in southwest Missouri. That Houn’ Dawg Unit paved the way for the school to officially adopt the Houn’ Dawg as its mascot in the 1920s.

The large midnight black granite monument calling attention to the Veterans Honor Garden was placed last week by the crew from Wommack Monument. Tanner Morrison, Adam Lasko and James Phillips dodged a few raindrops on June 14, Flag Day, to prep the area, dig the footings and set the stone. Several community members and supporters stopped by that morning to watch the process unfold.

The stone helps preserve the story of an Aurora educator/administrator and World War I veteran named Howard Kelley, whose legacy would result in the naming of Kelley Field. Another story depicted is that of Medal of Honor Recipient Harold Turner. Turner’s heroic efforts occurred during World War I, as well. Missouri now shares this MOH recipient with Oklahoma.

Additional plans include lighting, a mural wall, a time capsule, another bench and some landscaping at that location. On the inside, emphasis is being placed on cleaning, painting, historical displays, digitizing artifacts and creating a digital storytelling All Roads Lead Home Studio and website.

The school district finished a repair and painting project last summer with new colors framing the 80-plus-year-old structure–that has become a popular landmark for Aurora through the decades. The color palette features antler velvet and urban bronze Sherwin Williams colors.

Daffodils were planted in November of 2021 in honor of Aurora’s Brian Fogle, who leads the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. CFO celebrated its Golden Anniversary this year. Several sites in Aurora received the daffodils through a CFO grant implemented through Youth Empowerment Project and the Aurora CFO Affiliate.

The backside entrance to the gymnasium has a new entryway, as well, with steps and an access ramp. The parking lot received some attention to assist with safety measures, too.

Grants received for the projects have been received from the City of Aurora, Walmart Aurora, the Aurora Affiliate of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Missouri Humanities and the Charles & Arlene Spangler Fund. Other local donations have been received from Aurora Alumni Greg Huse, Jack Muench, Michele McCully, the Dave McCully Memorial Fund, the Class of 1981, the Class of 1979, the Class of 1982, the Class of 1971 and the Class of 1972.

The Aurora Houn’ Dawg Alumni & Outreach Center works closely with AHS YEP and Leadership programs. Brad Boetler and Kim McCully-Mobley serve as co-directors of both. An advisory board includes: Michele Parbury, Marcia Sadler, Dr. Billy Redus, Jack Muench, Scott Pettit, Bob Journagan, Jake McCully and Shannon Walker.

Boettler and McCully-Mobley have expressed their continued appreciation to those who have made these projects possible. An All Roads Lead Home Mural Number One was created on the north wall of the Children’s Smile Center in downtown Aurora in 2021. A second All Roads Lead Home Mural was placed on the south wall of Pawnderosa Pawn in 2022. All of the murals depict various stories from the community’s past.

The armory was constructed during World War II as a joint city, state and school project. The original plans were elaborate and called for a swimming pool, a large shooting range, a caretaker’s cottage and other amenities. In the wake of Pearl Harbor, all resources were reallocated for the war effort and the project was scaled back and redesigned.

Dedication ceremonies are set for the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 30, during the 2023 Aurora All-School Reunion at the Alumni Center site. The projects represent a series of Sense of Place work designed to promote history, art, storytelling and an intergenerational sense of community.
 

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Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712
www.lawrencecountyrecord.com

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