COAL CITY – For a 90-year-old piece of parchment, the Coal City VFW’s original charter looks pretty good.
Considering the charter was tucked inside post member Frank Spinozzi’s garage for the past four years, it looks even better.
“Is this really the original? You’ve doctored it all up,” a surprised Spinozzi said Wednesday, after seeing the charter for the first time since its restoration.
The VFW St. Juvin Post 1336 had the document refurbished, making it ready for public display. The charter was signed in March 1925 and includes names of each founding member, written in calligraphy.
Members of the St. Juvin Post gathered Wednesday at the Coal City Public Library, where the historic document was placed on display. The library will house the charter indefinitely as part of the library’s local history section.
The library’s head of reference, Irene Shepkoski, is compiling a book of obituaries and articles about each of the original St. Juvin Post members who signed the document. The book will go on display with the charter, so the public can read about each of the founders.
“It’ll share with the community the links they may have to these families,” Shepkoski said. “A lot of these families are still in the community.”
Such was the case for Coal City resident John Dite, who was at the library Wednesday morning, checking out a book, when he happened to look at the charter.
He was surprised to see his grandfather’s name, Emil Dite, included in the list of founders.
“I had no idea he was a member,” Dite said. “I’m going to come back to take a closer look [at the charter].”
St. Juvin Commander Charlie Brown said that was why the post wanted the charter displayed publicly – so community members could connect with their heritage.
“If they’re interested in genealogy or they’re interested in their family’s history and they wanted to tie that to World War I, here’s a way to do that,” Brown said.
After the post sold its Coal City building about four years ago, the charter and a few other significant documents were stored away.
Last year, post members began saving money for the document restoration and framing, intending to find it a new home.
“We got together and decided the library would be a great place to keep it,” Brown said.
The improved charter is now preserved with an acid-proof matte and is framed with museum-grade glass.
According to Brown, the VFW retains the right to take back the charter if the post purchases a new building, but said that is highly unlikely.
Shepkoski said the charter will hang on the second floor of the library, among other local, historical artifacts.
“It’s just an interesting view into the past,” Brown said. “You don’t get to see things like this very often.”