A new monument is slated to be placed on the former St. Mary of the Plains campus near Cavalier Field in honor of three local Vietnam veterans.

The Vietnam Memorial Monument is headed by project manager Gary Noller.

According to Noller, the three veterans are James Leo Nufer, Richard John Conrardy, and Gregg Francis Steimel, alumni of St. Mary of the Plains High School who were killed in the Vietnam War. All three served in combat in the U.S. Army.

Nufer died in March 1968. Conrardy and Steimel both died in July 1970.

According to Noller, Nufer, an infantryman, earned the Bronze Star.

Conrardy served as a combat medic and received the Silver Star.

The Army awarded the second highest valor award, the Distinguished Service Cross, to Steimel, also an infantryman.

"I grew up in Dodge City, attended Sacred Heart Grade School and St. Mary of the Plains High School and College," Noller said. "I served in the U.S. Army to include almost 11 months in Vietnam.

"My brother Larry lives in Dodge City while I now live in Texas."

According to Dodge City special projects coordinator Melissa McCoy, the project was presented to the city through Dave Geist, who is on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

"He advised me that Gary wanted to reach out to me about an idea he had. Dave gave him my contact information," McCoy said. "Gary, who is a veteran and also served in Vietnam, wanted to recognize his three St. Mary’s High School classmates in the vicinity of the old high school.

"The location selected was chosen based upon its proximity to the walking trail (on the St. Mary campus)."

The monument will be constructed from native Georgia granite and stand about 6 feet tall. It will be a trapezoidal monolith with vertical faces of 32, 24, 24 and 24 inches in width.

"Information about the school will be on the 32-inch face and information about each of the three alumni will be on the three remaining faces," Noller said. "The granite stone weighs approximately 5,000 pounds and will rest on a concrete foundation surrounded by existing and future concrete walkways.

"The monument will be located near the junction of the trail header and the main pedestrian walkway along U.S. Highway 50."

Currently, the monument is estimated to installed by Veterans Day 2019 with a dedication ceremony set for mid-2020.

The new monument adds to the tradition of displays honoring veterans who served in Dodge City.

According to Sonya Hughes, in the mid-1990s, the veteran memorial obelisk at Maple Grove Cemetery was damaged beyond repair when hit by lightning and there was also a monument at the courthouse that had veterans' names on it and another small monument at a park.

Hughes' late husband, Bob Hughes, was chairman of the Dodge City Avenue of Flags at Maple Grove Cemetery, a position he had held since 1992 before his death in July.

"Bob, on behalf of the Avenue of Flags, arranged to have those (monuments) moved out to Maple Grove," Sonya Hughes said. "He designed a ceremonial circle — and had Gordon Harms create a limestone piece for each of the military branches."

In 1997, the ceremonial circle was completed and has been used during Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies since that time.

The new monument would be another remembrance of local veterans who have served their country.

"The cost for the fabrication of the monument and concrete work is expected to be approximately $25,000," Noller said. "The St. Mary of the Plains Alumni Association has agreed to accept, hold, and distribute donated funds to complete the memorial.

"When finished, the memorial will be the property of the City of Dodge City. Any excess donated funds will be granted to the City of Dodge City for future maintenance of the memorial area."

From 1952 through 1969, St. Mary of the Plains High School operated in Dodge City with the former campus now owned by the City of Dodge City and administered through the Parks and Recreation Department.

Anyone wishing to make a donation for the monument can be sent to Veterans Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 416, Dodge City, KS 67801.

Additional information is available upon request and can be sent to gnoller@aol.com.

"The monuments have been ordered and are supposed to arrive here sometime in October," McCoy said. "Construction on the base should begin later this month then we anticipate installing the monuments shortly after their arrival."


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