Fairfield Township dedicates new community center
BY SHERYL PRENTICE | Updated Nov 25, 2012
Fairfield Township residents gathered Sunday at 2 p.m. at the new Fairfield Community Center to honor past traditions and dedicate a new meeting place for the future.
A crowd of about 120 people took seats in the center's large meeting room as the Orland American Legion Post 423 color guard posted the colors. Former Fairfield Township advisory board member John Hartman led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Current advisory board member John Reinoehl introduced Marvin Skelly and Don Skelly as his fellow board members, along with Fairfield Cemetery Association members Paul Reinoehl, Harold Smith, John Hartman, Robert Hartman and Gene Miller and township Trustee Angie Deetz.
Reinoehl reviewed the history of the structure known as the Fairfield Community Building, as compiled by historian Paul Reinoehl. The building, on C.R. 12 at C.R. 13 in northwestern DeKalb County, was constructed in 1866 as an Evangelical Lutheran Church. Church attendance dwindled, and in 1927 the denomination sold the building to Fairfield Township residents for a meeting place. The building was formally deeded to the Fairfield Cemetery Association as an organization with longevity in the community.
Many organizations, including the Farm Bureau, home demonstration clubs, 4-H clubs, Scout troops and family reunions used the building in the 1930s through the 1990s. The Farm Bureau made many improvements to the building in the 1930s and 1940s. The building was also a voting site for elections.
Reinoehl said the building's ownership was transferred to the Fairfield Township Advisory Board in 1975 to make it eligible for federal revenue sharing funds. The advisory board oversaw major renovation in the 1970s and 1980s, including new windows, vinyl siding, improved restrooms and kitchen area, and furnace.
By the 1990s, however, the building was becoming outdated, Reinoehl said.
"It was an ongoing discussion at the board meetings" whether to continue to renovate the old building or construct a new one, Reinoehl said. "Mother Nature told us what we were going to do with it."
A tornado struck on Oct. 24, 2001, heavily damaging the building and the nearby Fairfield Cemetery, as well as several homes. The building was beyond repair and was demolished in mid-December of that year.
Reinoehl said the advisory board sought community input in a public meeting on the fall of 2002 in order to determine whether to rebuild.
"The decision was the same as the 1927 decision," he said. "We need a meeting place."
Reinoehl said the new building continues the Fairfield community tradition of planning for future generations. Because there is no incorporated town within the township, the community needed a place to serve as a center.
"It is difficult to have a community if we have no meeting house," Reinoehl concluded.
Skelly led the dedication litany and prayer, then presented trustee Deetz with a plaque of appreciation for her service in coordinating and planning the design and construction of the building. The building also was dedicated in memory of Dr. Harold Urey, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1934 for his discovery of deuterium. Urey attended school in Fairfield Township as a child and requested to be buried in the Fairfield Cemetery. He died in La Jolla, Calif., in 1981.
The Pleasant Lake Lions Club Chorus provided four songs during the program, including "America the Beautiful," "Let There Be Peace on Earth," "God Bless America" and "Back Home Again in Indiana."
The program then turned to honoring veterans on Memorial Day. Angola Mayor Dick Hickman spoke in tribute to all veterans, recounting his father's service in World War II and his memories of the Korean Conflict and Vietnam War.
Hickman said his father's generation saw military service as nothing special, but said veterans are among those who helped to build America into a great nation. They raised families, volunteered for church, school and sports, joined civic organizations such as the Kiwanis and Lions clubs, and led good lives.
"We tend to look at the wealthy as the ones who built America," Hickman said. "But it is veterans who have made this country the greatest nation in the world."
After the building dedication, the color guard led a procession to the Fairfield Cemetery for a service to honor fallen veterans.
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