Grundy County’s Freedom Rock

CONRAD – Grundy County’s Freedom Rock, the 47th of 99 to be painted by Ray “Bubba” Sorenson of Greenfield, received its formal dedication in Conrad over the weekend, with several community members and veterans present.

In honoring the veterans who were present, and remembering all those who have served or are serving currently, project coordinator Carol Altenhein said, “This is for you. We honor you, and dedicate this rock to you and those who are still serving, in the spirit of those who have served and have gone on before.”

During his remarks Conrad Mayor Jeff Martin said, “We are standing here today in Gier Centennial Park the historic place of Conrad’s first fire station, and now the home of this Freedom Rock. On behalf of the council and the entire community we are honored to be the home of the Grundy County Freedom Rock and the 47th rock in the series of 99 that will be featured on the Freedom Rock Tour. This is just another reason for people to come and visit and enjoy our wonderful community.”

“I am honored to represent the American Legion Post in Conrad and veterans of Grundy County at this dedication ceremony,” said Bob Daniel, Conrad American Legion Post Commander. “Conrad is very fortunate to have this beautiful reminder of what our veterans have done.”

Altenhein began working on the project in 2013, after her daughter, Heather Johnson of Bondurant, called her saying, “Mom, Conrad should get Grundy County’s Freedom Rock.” Johnson, the executive director of Iowa Remembers an organization that honors all fallen soldiers was responsible for lining up the Polk County Freedom Rock in Bondurant.

After the application was filled out, Iowa Remembers provided the down payment for the project and things began taking shape. Altenhein then approached the Conrad City Council for their approval, which was granted. Looking for a rock was next, and John Conrad III a member of the Conrad family whose ancestors were responsible for founding the town – said he had a rock that might be suitable. The rock sat in a field just south of the Conrad cemetery yet within the city limits. Gary Engle supplied a backhoe and John McNair, Bruce Altenhein, Dean Sharp, Brian Ladehoff and Mark Smith provided the labor to clear the dirt form the rock. Dave’s Crane and Wrecker Service of Union moved the rock to the location in Gier Centennial Park.

She also thanked Pat Schiebel for suppling artwork; Miss Harper’s Inn for hosting Sorenson while he was in town; Brian Ladehoff of Ladehoff Landscaping and Lawn Care for landscaping around the project; the City of Conrad maintenance men for cleaning up the old shrubbery and trimming trees, and Boy Scout Troop 107 for the use of their tent during the painting process; the Rev. Gene Kubli for delivering the invocation and benediction at the ceremony; and Taylor Chizek for singing the National Anthem.

“Although three community grants and several donations from clubs got the project to where it is today, we still fell a little short and need more donations to erect signage,” Altenhein said. “It has been great working with Sorenson on this project, and realize that this is an amazing sacrifice that he is making to be away from his family so much.”

Sorenson gave a brief history of how the freedom rock tour was started, beginning with the first freedom rock he painted near his hometown of Greenfield after seeing the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” He continues to repaint that rock every year in may just before Memorial Day as a way of honoring veterans for their service.

“The idea for the Freedom Rock in each county came as a result of Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) 99-county tour, and the fact that my wife and I just opened a mural and photography studio and at first thought we could paint murals.” “We came up with the idea for a rock in each county to thank the veterans, promote Iowa tourism, and feed our family,” he added.

Sorenson said he just completed the 53rd rock in the series of 99 and will start on the 54th soon after this weekend dedication.

Each rock is unique to its county’s history, and Grundy County’s has a field-of-dreams like portrait of soldiers coming out of the corn since many young farm boys were drafted in the early year of wars. The back side of the rock is a painting of the City of Grundy Center bomber.

However, all 99 will have Sorenson’s signature painting of the American Flag draped across the top. “This is just my way of thanking the veterans as well as honoring the American patriots who never served, but lend their support to the veterans here at home,” Sorenson said.

“I just want to thank God for the many donations that support a project like this,” Sorenson said. “I really hope you all enjoy it and my God Bless,” he concluded.

The Grundy County Freedom Rock is located on Grundy Ave in Conrad one block north of the intersection of Center and Main streets.


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