St. Charles County Veterans Museum

A growing tribute

The St. Charles County Veterans Museum has enjoyed early success, but faces challenges as it continues to grow

By Brett Auten

Jim Higgins wasn’t prepared.

When Higgins and the rest of the board members launched the St. Charles County Veterans Museum in the spring of 2019 they were not sure what the reaction would be.

Now, as the year comes to a close, Higgins was overcome by the response.

“We were not quite prepared for the outpouring of generosity,” Higgins said. “The public and community businesses have been very gracious. I’m not sure where we would be without them. It’s been amazing.”

Located at located at 410 E. Elm Street in O’Fallon, the museum’s mission is to inspire, inform, and engage the residents of St. Charles County to honor the memories of St. Charles County veterans who served the United States.

Every veteran has a story and the board members have done their best to reach out to veterans and their families to preserve those stories. Stories can be shared through a uniform, photos, medals or other military or wartime memorabilia – items that bring those stories to life – stories of a veteran’s life and his service to our country. Watching these stories being passed along to future generations is reason enough for the board members to get out of bed every morning.

“When you see a family come in and you hear them say, ‘That’s grandpa,’ or ‘That’s Uncle Bob,’ that is our reward,” Higgins said.  

For those who have served, walking into the museum can be moving.

“This place can heal,” Higgins said. “We had a guy who was a Vietnam veteran who could not make it in. He turned around left. And after his third visit, he finally came in a looked around and thanked us.”

While things are off to a roaring success, that doesn’t mean that there is not work to be done.

Donations are always urgent. The museum had $900 to its name when the doors opened. Storage space is becoming an issue and eventually the board would like to transition to more electronic displays.

“We’re starting to run out of room and the cost for touch screens can be pretty significant,” Higgins said. “Donations and sponsorship going forward is going to be critical.”

The St. Charles County Veterans Museum is a 501c tax exempt, nonprofit organization and is the brainchild of the late Ralph Barrale. Barrale was a World War II Veteran who landed on Utah Beach in Normandy and fought at the Battle of the Bulge with General George Patton. He successfully lobbied the state to name the Highway 364 Bridge Veterans Memorial Bridge. He later lobbied St. Charles County municipalities to rename the South Service Road to Veterans Memorial Parkway. Barrale passed away before the museum’s opening.

For more information, including how to help or to donate, visit www.stcharlescountyveteransmuseum.com. The group also has a very active Facebook page.

CUTLINE: Photos provided by the St. Charles County Veterans Museum Members of the Korean War Veterans Association along with their spouses or family members pose in front of a painting at the St. Charles Veterans Museum. The museum is located at 410 East Elm Street in O’Fallon. Its hours are Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.