The on-going saga of the mysterious World War I painting that has hung virtually unnoticed in Peabody Township Library for the past 93-years was brought into the bright sunlight Saturday afternoon before a crowd of about 150 people.
The library board sponsored a rededication ceremony for the painting during the Memorial Day weekend festivities. It proved to be an interesting and emotional event for many in attendance.
The painting, a 7-feet-by-4-feet rendering of patriotic images and symbols, lists the 183 soldiers from Peabody and Peabody Township who fought in the war. Highlighted are the names of seven of them who died. The artist, Jack Logan, has been a mystery to those investigating the painting’s history.
Through the efforts of librarian, Roger Charles, and Virginia Skinner, a volunteer with a drive to learn what can still be known about the painter and his subjects, a history of the painting is beginning to emerge.
Skinner contacted several people in Peabody with ties to the listed names. Within a few weeks, she had information on roughly one third of the named soldiers. Other information was available through old copies of local newspapers.
Skinner told the descendants of the World War I veterans about the painting, her search for information, and the re-dedication ceremony planned for Memorial Day weekend.
Dozens made the trip to hear the story — as much as is known at this time — see the painting, and visit with the family members of other veterans. Some brought personal memorabilia and photographs, some knew stories passed down from their fighting men, some knew little and came in search of more information.
The ceremony participants included Kansas American Legion Commander Paul Sanford, Peabody Mayor Larry Larsen, Skinner, and Ministers Jim Pohlman, Larry Timm, and David Ragland.
Sanford presented the library with an American flag from Sen. Jerry Moran that was flown over the U.S. Capitol Building in honor of the seven WWI soldiers who died in action.
Sanford offered a second flag, a Kansas flag flown over the state Capitol in honor of the deceased at the request of the Peabody American Legion Post and presented by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Fourteen of the descendants in the audience were the children of 12 of the veterans listed on the painting.
Special poppy corsages were presented to family members and several in the group stayed long after the event to visit with one another and enjoy their memories.
Skinner plans to continue her research and gather what information she can about the artist, why he chose to create that painting, and the men he decided to honor.
The painting will be professionally cleaned and restored as soon as funds are available, according to Charles. The library board hopes to preserve it for another century.