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Updated: November 23, 2022 @ 2:48 am
John Pressman was killed in action during World War I. Orange City’s American Legion was named in his honor.
John Pressman was killed in action during World War I. Orange City’s American Legion was named in his honor.
Museums are collections of many different life stories. Some stories are told in more detail, others are just a glimpse into a life once lived. Or they may center on a certain time or theme in history.
Nowhere is this more true than at the Annex of the Dutch American Museum in Orange City, Iowa. This building, located on the corner of Third St. SW and Arizona Ave. SW was constructed in 1903. It served as the F.M. Slagle Lumber store until 1963.
Since then it had been the home for many different businesses. In recent years it has been part of the museum complex. A ribbon cutting was held in August of this year to highlight the Annex’s new purpose, of honoring the men and women who have served in the military.
Arlo Van Beek has been on the museum’s board of directors for 12 years. He presently serves as the president.
“We realized there are many stories of the men and women who served that were not being told and are in danger of being forgotten,” said President Van Beek. “We want to preserve and tell of these stories and sacrifices.”
Beginning in 2019, the soundly-built building was remodeled both inside and out. In keeping with the town’s Dutch heritage theme, it now resembles the architecture from Marken, a fishing village in The Netherlands.
“Remodeling during 2019 we worked hard and fast to be ready for Tulip Festival,” said President Van Beek. “But realized that Covid would delay the opening.”
Orange City’s Tulip Festival was cancelled in 2020 which proved to be a good thing for the Annex.
“We further realized that this would give us the opportunity to put forth the extra effort to best present the displays and narratives that these items and stories deserve,” said Van Beek.
The displays depict Sioux County men and women who have served in the military — beginning with the Civil War. Orange City was settled in 1870, just a few short years after the Civil War ended. Several of the early pioneers were veterans from this war between the states.
Marinus Rhynsburger was one of the Civil War veterans. I wonder if the tulips were blooming in the Netherlands when he was born there in May of 1843. He came to the United States in 1854 with his parents where they became part of the Dutch colony in Pella, Iowa.
With his father, Dirk Rhynsburger, and his brother, John Rhynsburger, Marinus enlisted in the Union army in 1862 as a member of Co. B, 15th Iowa Infantry. He participated in several battles and was twice wounded, once at the Battle of Shiloh and again at the Battle of Atlanta. He served until the war ended.
After the war, he returned to Pella, married and became a merchant. In 1882, he moved to Orange City, where he was in the clothing business with his brother-in-law John Pas.
When Marinus departed from this life at the age of 90, it was believed he was the oldest Civil War veteran in this area.
The tulips were up and growing when the United States officially entered WWI in April of 1917.
Tall, slender and with brown eyes, John C. Pressman spent his days working as a carpenter for Jacob Ypema. I wonder if he trembled when he heard the news that President Woodrow Wilson had signed the Selective Services Act on May 18, 1917. This meant that all men between the ages of 21 and 30 had to register with the newly-created selective service system. Pressman was 21 years old.
A year later, he entered the service in February. He was sent to Camp Dodge where he was assigned to an engineer regiment. Pressman was killed in action in 1818 near Fismes in France.
For several reasons, his funeral didn’t take place until 1921. Soldier Pressman’s service was held at the United Presbyterian Church in Keokuk where there is a national military cemetery.
It really is bittersweet, for on his coffin were flowers from the John C. Pressman Post 329, American Legion; which was so named in his honor. He was the first soldier from Orange City to die in WWI.
The Reverend Robert A. Foster officiated at the ceremony. Among the many words he said were these, “I wish to express my appreciation that we citizens of Iowa owe to the soldiers and especially those whose sacred remains rest here for a few moments. I do not feel that I can ever repay the debt, because it can never be repaid…. Today we learn again the significance and value of the flag. There was a time when the red in the flag merely meant red. Now we know that her stripes are colored with the precious blood of heroes.”
Sadly the great war to end all wars did not accomplish its purpose. With this war still vivid in memories, the United States entered WWII on Dec. 7, 1941 while the tulip bulbs laid hidden and forgotten in the frozen soil.
Ring Kleinhesselink was born as World War I was ending on a farm in the middle of the section near Newkirk. He enlisted in the army as he knew he would be drafted.
The sturdy well-built Iowa farm boy proved to be a dependable soldier, eventually rising to the ranks of Captain. He served in both the South Pacific and European theatres.
At Guadacanal he served in the Gun Battalian at Henderson Field. While there, he kept a journal of his experiences which he later entitled “The Truth About The Guadacanal.” I hope to read this sometime.
He married Anna Beth Vander Schaaf (now that’s rather interesting). Besides that, my farmer and I purchased our farm from a Kleinhesslink. Both were different clans, so I never met Mr. or Mrs. Ring Kleinhesselink.
After the war, Ring came back to the farm. There his attention to clean fields, creativity when it came to something as mundane as building a pig feed bunk was amazing, and that cornball sense of humor kept people on their toes.
For instance, he enjoyed standing in his field and telling his children or whoever else happened to be there. “Yes, I am a farmer out standing in my field.”
This man continued to serve his country by being active on the school board for 21 years, instrumental in bringing electricity to the area and was a member of the Newkirk Reformed Church.
He may be written down in the history books as the man who shot down the first V-1’s over Antwerp; but I suspect there are some of his fellow soldiers who remember him as one soldier who practiced his biblical beliefs by refusing to go to Paris and other points of entertainment — as he didn’t want to be tempted.
Wars are never pleasant affairs. The Vietnam War especially evoked many different emotions amongst Americans. It still does. Yet many people we know or have read their memorial folders spent years of their lives protecting freedom in the Vietnam War.
I have to admit, until I read Carl Reinking’s obituary, his military service was unknown to me. This man and his wife have been acquaintances of the family for many years which developed into a deeper fellowship as they are special friends of my sister and her husband.
Because of this, we have shared many Sunday meals together. So I should have known he was farm boy who was adept at catching and holding baby pigs that needed vaccinations. But I didn’t. All I knew him as was Carl, a good man.
I didn’t know he was a member of the National Guard. Two weeks before their first baby was due to arrive in 1968, Carl was called to active duty with the Army National Guard, stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado. He was away in basic training when his son, Daniel, was born.
This had to bring back vivid memories to his wife’s parents, the Hollingas. Lambert Hollinga was the first married man with two children from Sioux County to be drafted into WWII. His wife, Olva, not only had to care for their two young children; but she was also pregnant with Nan at the time. Wars definitely demand sacrifices from everyone.
The tulips were blooming when Spec. 4 Reinking was sent to serve with Company C, 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry, 198th Infantry Brigade, America Division near Chu Lai, Vietnam, as an infantryman in May of 1969.
This past August we visited Mr. Reinking just a month before he passed away in the nursing home he had just entered. His tall, always slender body still gave evidence of the star athlete he was in high school. His smile was the same. His gentle, graceful spirit will always be remembered by me.
These military people were all older than me. Now all the subsequent wars and conflicts involve people my age and younger.
I knew Daniel Landegent slightly. He and his wife Nancy were a great musical duo — especially when it came to singing together or playing hymn duets on the piano.
Daniel could play many different instruments. While alive, he pleased the crowds with accordion music when the tulips were blooming during Orange City’s tulip festivals. His talent for design and painting was often used for the festival’s night show.
He served during the Cold War years. He was commissioned as a United States Air Force officer. He spent four years as a commander in the 321 Strategic Missile Wing in cold Grand Forks, N.D. In other words, he went deep into the earth, manning one of those missile silos.
No doubt Officer Landegent’s wry sense of humor was a great source of warmth to his fellow winter dwellers.
Military service and a talented artist sure seems like an odd combination. Soldiers are real people.
The Annex has just a few items from the more recent wars on display. President Van Beek expects their collections to grow in due time.
No, I didn’t forget the Korean War, even though it is sometimes referred to as the “forgotten war.”
Fifty-four thousand soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice before the armistices was signed July 27, 1953 to end the Korean War.
Cornelius Siebersma, who most of us know as J.R., received his letter from the Selective Service in 1951.
A short year later he was deployed to Korea. On the plaque with his photo at the Annex, he wrote these words that are true of his life yet today.
“I got to thinking, you are going into a war zone, you may not get back, you better get your life straightened away. So, I recommitted my life to Christ, on Nov. 6, 1952, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.”
So many conflicts and troubles since then. Even now as I am planting tulips for next year’s spring, I wonder what changes will occur in this world as the bulbs hibernate underground.
I don’t know if I will be living when these tulips bloom next spring. Are you sure you will? Perhaps we should take heed of those words Mr. Siebersma wrote.
Renae B. Vander Schaaf is an independent writer, author and speaker. Contact her at (605) 530-0017 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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