Libertyville plans Memorial Day tribute to man who led monument effort
Memorial Day is always special in Libertyville, but this year will have added significance for those who gather at the Veterans Memorial Monument at Lakeside Cemetery.
It will be the first year Jim Robbins won't be there to tell the story of how the granite monument came to be and what it means since it was dedicated on Memorial Day 20 years ago.
Robbins, a Marine who graduated from Libertyville High School in 1946, died in January. He was among a core group who envisioned a monument inscribed with the names of Libertyville Township residents who died serving in the armed forces, and he helped raise more than $60,000 to build it.
He and the late Bill Madole and the late Norman Arnswald will be honored during a short program for the 150 or so visitors expected to walk or drive to the cemetery for taps and a final tribute after the Memorial Day main event in Cook Park.
Robbins also will be honored in a different fashion on Saturday. The American Legion has honored veterans buried at Lakeside by placing a 12-inch by 18-inch flag at the graves. For the past 15 years, they've been assisted by Libertyville area scouting and youth service groups.
"Every year, Jim Robbins would come out and explain to the kids his passion to remember the fallen heroes," said Judy Zemeske, a member of the Lakeside Cemetery Association board.
For the last three years, activities on the Saturday before Memorial Day included a ceremony in which American Legion members would come to the monument, say their name and branch of armed forces, and distribute a patch for community service to their helpers.
"It really makes an impact on the kids," Zemeske said. "It was very powerful."
This year, the patch the young helpers receive will feature a familiar figure.
"I thought it only fitting to put Jim's likeness on the patch and remember him with the 20th anniversary," said Zemeske, who designed it. American Legion Post 329 picked up the cost of 200 patches.
There are approximately 5,300 grave sites at Lakeside with 583 veterans buried there, according to Ed Kelly, cemetery association president. The association donated the land for the memorial monument.
"We've spent a lot of time over the last three years identifying the veterans who are out there," Kelly said.
The earliest known burial at Lakeside was 1844, and many early settlers and leaders are among those at rest there. Volunteers will be on hand to help visitors locate the grave sites of loved ones or others.
Memorial Day in Libertyville will begin at 9:30 a.m. with a silent parade from the Metra train station, 200 Lake St., a few blocks south on Milwaukee Avenue to Cook Park for a ceremony. In case of rain, the ceremony will be held at the American Legion Hall, 715 N. Milwaukee Ave.