Two brothers spark remembrance of Cuba, Missouri veterans…

A wreath was placed at the Monument the day of its dedication.

A wreath was placed at the Monument the day of its dedication.

To commemorate Memorial Day 2011, we are re-posting this story of two brothers and how they remembered their brother and how it honors us all…

Cliff Mullen of Cuba, Missouri had a winning smile and wrote for the high school paper the Wildcat Wailer. He played baseball and enjoyed 4-H activities in the rural Missouri town. The 10th of 12 children born to Hank and Florence Mullen, he graduated from high school in 1965 and worked for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company.

Following the footsteps of his older brothers, he enlisted in the Navy and served as a Seabee with the U.S. Pacific Fleet and served two tours in Vietnam. During November of his second tour of duty in 1968, Navy Specialist 3 Clifford T. Mullen received life-threatening burns.

Cliff spent his dying days in Japan. The military provided for his mother to be at his bedside, but there was no money for his father Henry to visit.  However, Cuba showed its compassion when it collected almost  $1000 dollars within a week’s time in December to send his father to join his wife by Cliff’s bedside. Cliff passed away in January 1969 at the age of 22.

In 2007, two of his brothers Phil and W.D. (Delbert) Mullen wanted to commemorate their brother’s death. And they wanted to do it while their mother who was now in her 90s could experience it. Within two years, the two brothers accomplished this and touched the hearts of a town, which once more rallied around the Mullen family to remember not only their brother Cliff but also Cuba’s other military veterans who had served their country during war time.

Cuba, a town of 3500 designated as “Route 66 Mural City” by the Missouri legislature for its 12 outdoor murals celebrating the town’s history, continues its legacy of generosity.  The town supported the project to recognize Cliff Mullen and Cuba’s other veterans.

“We started with the idea that we would have a mural in the center of town that would recognize Vietnam vets,” stated Phil Mullen. However, when the two brothers discussed the idea with Viva Cuba, the beautification organization that commissioned the murals, the group thought that a monument placed in the area known as Recklein Commons area would be better.

The historic area had green space, the history museum, the town library, and the historic rock Catholic Church and school complex. The brothers received permission from the city and discussed the project with the members of the Historical Society since the memorial would sit on the front lawn in front of their city-owned building. It is a location that lends itself to quiet and reflection.

The brothers embraced the idea of a granite monument and contacted Excelsior Granite in Ironton, Missouri.  They decided on Missouri red granite.  The project expanded as they started fundraising.  “How could we put one name on it, and not all of them,” commented Phil Mullen. What occurred after the project began is a testament to the “can do” attitude in small town America.

The Mullens decided, that starting with WWI  when official records were well documented, that they would honor veterans of WWI and each subsequent war and engrave the names of Cuba veterans who had served in each of the wars up to and including the Iraq war.  The design would be four-sided with a pyramid and a flying eagle perched on the top.  They thought it would cost about $50,000. Fundraising began with donation containers shaped like the memorial placed throughout town.

The brothers addressed organizations and held small fundraisers.  The donations grew, but so did the project, and the amount that was needed became larger as time passed.  Research brought forth more and more names. The brothers discovered that the red granite would display 924 names. The project went into its second year with a fundraising goal of $100,000.  But the donations continued to mount, and there was no turning back.

As word of the project spread, donations came in from around the country. Donations ranged from several thousand to a few dollars.  But they added up to the completion of a dream. In the end, over 360 donations made the Veterans Memorial a reality, and donations still come in to finish and maintain the project.

“We would get discouraged, someone would come along and encourage us, and we would take another go at it,” commented Phil Mullen when discussing the long project to raise the needed funds

With a good portion of the money raised, the granite was trucked from Missouri to Keystone Memorial in Elberton, GA for engraving.   Stencils of the names were placed over the red granite slabs and cut out by hand.  Then sandblasting etched the names of Cuba’s veterans from the wars into the town’s history.

The names were stenciled on the monument by hand before the sandblasting engraved them.

The names were stenciled on the monument by hand before the sandblasting engraved them.

Local contractor Dave Workman, himself a Vietnam vet whose name was on the memorial, built the concrete foundation that would be the base for the monument. Although they were a few thousand dollars short of what was needed to finish the project, the work went forward.

Keystone transported the monument to Cuba at the end of October 2008 to erect it for a Veterans Day dedication in November. Placing the monument and the pyramid on top was an event in itself. That day found many in attendance to watch the event and take photos. Florence Mullen’s sons Delbert and Phil brought her from a car where she was being kept warm on the cold, breezy day so that she could see the monument lifted into place by a large crane.

A crane and workman carefully erected the Veterans Memorial.

A crane and workman carefully erected the Veterans Memorial while bystanders took photos.

As the three gazed on the culmination of months of work, the bittersweet looks on their faces told the story. The Missouri granite honored the lives of so many who had left their homes to fight in our country’s wars and fulfilled a goal, but the loss of Cliff Mullen weighed on their minds.

Phil, Mrs. Mullen, and W.D. watched the Veterans Memorial put in place.

Phil, Mrs. Mullen, and W.D. watched the Veterans Memorial put in place.

The monument was dedicated on Veterans Day. State and local officials spoke and an honor guard placed a wreath on the memorial as a bagpiper played a haunting tune. The event was particularly poignant as 97 year-old Florence Mullen, accompanied by her son Delbert, stood by the monument and observed the honor guard place a wreath under the engraved name of her son Cliff.  Not only was her son Cliff honored, but also the names of six of her seven sons were engraved on the memorial.

The family placed a wreath at the Memorial.

The family placed a wreath at the Memorial.

The solemn sound of “Taps” at the end of the ceremony reminded bystanders that while some sacrifice by going off to war, others sacrifice by giving their lives. Eight names with a star by them denote soldiers who died in the wars.

A wreath was placed at the memorial at the dedication.

The Cuba, Missouri community came together to honor its Veterans.

Afterward the ceremony, families circled the monument to read the names of friends and family who had served in the wars. Hands reached out to touch a name. A circle by a name indicated that the soldier had been in more than one war. Veterans looked at the names and at each other, tacitly understanding what it meant to have recognition of their sacrifices.

After the dedication members of the audience circled the monument finding the names of their loved ones. A few reached out to touch the names.

After the dedication members of the audience circled the monument finding the names of their loved ones. A few reached out to touch the names.

Many photographs recorded the event, and a slice of Cuba’s history took its place in front of the museum.  If you travel to Cuba, visit Smith Street at the intersection of the museum, the historic rock Catholic Church, and the town library. In the area, you will see a flag, an eagle, a cross, and Cuba’s Veterans Memorial.  You will find the culmination of two brothers’ dream that honors us all.

The name Clifford T. Mullen is listed above the wreath in this photo.

The name Clifford T. Mullen is listed above the wreath in this photo.

Update: Florence Mullen is now 99 years-old. In May, 2010, she was recognized by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan as being one of the oldest voting Democrats in Missouri. She has voted in every election since women got the vote. According to a recent Cuba Free Press article she has always been a fan of Harry Truman. She used Truman as the middle name of her son Clifford, who was killed in the Vietnam War.

2011 Update: Mrs. Mullen is still going strong.

In November, 2011 Mrs. Mullen celebrated her 100 birthday at Recklein Auditorium, which is adjacent to the Memorial. Read about it here.

It has become an annual tradition that a Veterans Day Ceremony is held at the Memorial.

 

 

A Reminder: The Veterans Memorial should be treated with respect. It is not a playground for climbing or a bench. Food and drink should not be placed on it, and it is not a proper place to discard cigarette butts.

The Gold Star Boys Mural remembers sacrifice…

The faces of the young men in the window of the train are the faces of young men from the Cuba area who did not return from World War II.

A scene from Cuba during the Memorial Day weekend: The faces of the young men in the window of the train are the faces of young men from the Cuba area who did not return from World War II.

During W.W. II the “Blue Bonnet,” a Frisco train named after the Texas state flower, was a familiar sight with its distinctive blue and white cars.  It was this #7 train that whisked away Cuba’s service men as they left their homes to protect our way of life and values.  They sometimes gave their lives to insure freedom.

Cuba’s Gold Star boys who gave their lives were the following:  Ralph Burnell Fishwick-Navy; Preston A. (Bud) Gibson Jr.-Army; Lawrence E. Grant-Navy; Dale K. Hudson-Navy; Rex Hilliard Powell-Naval Reserve; and Floyd Cecil Vaughn-9th Air Corps.

According to a Cuba Free Press letter to the editor at the time the mural was painted, local Wilbur Vaughn remembered his family taking his brother Floyd to this train during World War II.  He then went home, sat on the porch, and heard the whistle of the Blue Bonnet as it left.  He recalled how sad it sounded.

You might wonder why these men who died in the service of their country were called “Gold Star Boys.”  With Public Law 534, the 89th Congress directed the design and distribution of a lapel button–known as the Gold Star Lapel button–to identify widows, parents, and next of kin of members of the Armed Forces of the United who lost their lives during hostilities.  The pin, which is issued by the Department of Defense, is gold and is on a purple background for combat death and all gold for death while in service.

When one of the service men was killed in combat, his relatives received this gold medal. Servicemen’s mothers often wore the medal to show that they had lost a son.  It was a badge not only of sadness for loss but also one of pride because their sons had sacrificed for their countries.

For more information on the Gold Star Mothers’ organization, you can go to goldstarmoms.com.

Let Us Remember…

Let us remember their sacrifice and all the veterans who have given to their country.

Let us remember their sacrifice and all the veterans who have given to their country.

The names of the Gold Star boys and information about their deaths is painted in the red area next to their names. The Gold Star Medal is also pictured.

The names of the Gold Star boys and information about their deaths is painted in the red area next to their names. The Gold Star Medal is also pictured.

The full sweep of the mural is a patriotic display.

The full sweep of the mural is a patriotic display. It also remembers those who said good-bye to their loved ones.

The Artists

Michelle Loughery of Canada, bringing along her assistant Sara Lindsay, returned to Cuba for this mural. Local artist Shelly Smith Steiger also collaborated on this mural.

Uptown Cuba gets spring cleaning…

Recently the Korte Landscaping crew did a clean up on these planted areas by the tracks on Smith Street.

The Korte Services landscaping crew did a clean up on these planted areas by the tracks on Smith Street.

Cuba, MO: Recently, I noticed that the planted areas by the tracks on Smith Street were looking a little shabby with weeds and some overgrowth. I meant to bring it to the attention of Viva Cuba to see if we needed to work on the areas.

But the folks at Frisco’s Restaurant & Pub took the initiative and, with the help of Korte Services, bushes and trees were trimmed, weeds cleared, and the areas near their business now look pretty spiffy.

A little color and well-tended shrubs make an attractive area in Uptown Cuba.

A little color and well-tended shrubs make an attractive area in Uptown Cuba.

Later, I saw the Korte crew working on the plantings in front of  Roberts-Judson Lumber Company on Washington, another attractive area in uptown Cuba. They were spraying for weeds and maintaining the area for the season.

Viva Cuba’s plantings in the black containers around the historic area are starting to show some growth. Gene Beyers keeps them fertilized and watered during the season.

Roberts-Judson contributes to an attractive Uptown Cuba business area.

Roberts-Judson contributes to an attractive Uptown Cuba business area.

Next to Roberts-Judson, Wallace House features some attractive plantings too.

Next to Roberts-Judson, Wallace House features some attractive plantings too.

Cuba is fortunate to have area businesses that realize the importance of a good looking Uptown business district and that will take the initiative to keep their areas clean and attractive and help create a community as well as a business.

When you see  businesses that go out of their way to present an attractive presence in the town, let them know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

1912 Beautification efforts in Cuba, MO…and what we see today…

Here's an attractive Garden Walkway.

Here's an attractive Garden Walkway.

Even before Viva Cuba, the murals, the Viva Cuba Garden, and other beautification projects, Cuba’s citizens have been civic minded and understood the importance of an attractive community. Vera Cantley’s column “Recalling the Past” in the Cuba Free Press recently pointed that out in a newspaper report from Cuba in 1912.

A Civic Club of both men and women was founded on May 8, 1912. Their goal was the advancement of Cuba, and one of their first efforts involved beautification. During the September fair, prizes were to be given to adults for the handsomest porch box.  First place would receive $3.00 and second place $2.00.  There would also be a prize for the best-kept lawn at the same price.

In 1912, the Civic Club knew the importance in involving young people in beautification efforts. Girls and boys under 15 years old, could receive $2 for the nicest kept backyard and $1 for second place. This might have been a plot by the adults to get the kids to do their yard chores, but it may have worked.

For the largest assortment of flowers, there was a first place prize of $2 and second place prize of $1.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any photos of the winning efforts, so we have included a few random photos of today’s gardeners. Some of today’s amateur gardeners achieve near profressional results, and we appreciate their work to make our Cuba neighborhoods more attractive.

Here's an inviting spot for contemplation in the garden.

Here's an inviting spot for contemplation in the garden.

Mary Miller's roses are experiencing an abundance of blooms.

Mary Miller's roses are experiencing an abundance of blooms.

Some people like to build a water treatment into their landscape design.

Some people like to build a water treatment into their landscape design.

History Museum speaks of its past…

The curator of the Cuba History Museum Betty DeLeo passed out this first person narration of the museum’s history as a building at the Chamber of Commerce meeting yesterday.

The History Museum has been part of Cuba's history since 1934.

The History Museum has been part of Cuba's history since 1934. The Veterans Memorial is a recent addition to the grounds.

I am one of 20 historic buildings in Cuba, MO. Did you see my historic plaque on the side of the front door? I am very proud of this distinction as it evolved over 75 years to be a member of the historic preservation community.

First, let me describe what I am made of: Missouri-mined sandstone cut and fitted in a “giraffe” pattern. This is a prevalent pattern used by local Ozark craftsmen. In the history books written about me, I am always referred to as the rock building. When the original Cuba school was condemned having been built in the early 1920’s, I was built in 1934 under the WPA issued by President Roosevelt. You can still discern the cement foundation of the original school on my front lawn. There was a tunnel that connected the two schools used during inclement weather or by some, to take a fast smoke.

This was the original school that was later torn down. It sat in front of the present museum.

This was the original school that was later torn down. It sat in front of the present museum.

Mr. William Recklein donated to the city the land and the old buildings, bought at auction for $ 10,000, including my building and the auditorium. He then built the library across the street in memory of his wife. My times were great during school days-enjoyed the tramping & laughter of kids growing up between my walls, which by the way, are 20” thick. You can see this best in the basement windows, but these times did come to an end when all of the schools were consolidated and moved to new buildings in the south end of Cuba.

I was kind of lonely for a few years until in 1964 my building was turned into Recklein Community Youth Center. I don’t know (since time means little to me) how long this went on, but in 1972, I was reinvented again as a Well Baby Clinic. Talk about a lot of activity! The Two Score Plus group met on the first floor, and mothers with children went up to the second floor in the library and those rooms that were prior classrooms. Yes, my heart (I do have a heart, as any old building does) would just melt when the children cried after a shot. But I would just harden up because I knew it was for their own good.

Speaking of good vs. bad, the Police Department of Cuba was also housed here between the dates of 1990-91 to 2001. Whew, I was sure glad when they built their own place.

Now, comes my grand finale-in 2002 the Historical Society moved into my 3 floors with all of their historical artifacts. Now, my rooms are filled with lovely antique furniture, in the guest parlor, a one room school, a 1900’s kitchen, the bridal isle upstairs, etc, etc, etc. I have finally found my true relatives. Yes, relatives, for they belong to me, they are my family, they love me, they love my history.

They are the Crawford County Historical Society.

I am coming into the modern times. Visit my new website: crawfordmomuseum.com. Email me at info@crawfordmomuseum.com.

See related storeis.

Recklein Commons

History Museum Murals

Preservation

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