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Rod Fleck of Forks, top, and Hal Bellerud of Olympia, both members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, remove one of four antique windows from the Indianola Community Church. The group, along with the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, wants to preserve the windows that were commissioned 100 years ago for the old Bremerton Methodist Church.
Staff photos by Carolyn J. Yaschur

Rod Fleck of Forks, top, and Hal Bellerud of Olympia, both members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, remove one of four antique windows from the Indianola Community Church. The group, along with the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, wants to preserve the windows that were commissioned 100 years ago for the old Bremerton Methodist Church.



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INDIANOLA
WINDOWS TO A WAR SURVIVOR

Commissioned by a Civil War veteran a century ago, the stained glass windows now are on the road to preservation.

Melodie Wright
For The Sun

September 15, 2003

The stained glass windows in Indianola Community Church always have been an enigma to the congregation.

Featuring eagles clutching crossed cannons and sabres, the four windows -- or, when combined, two 8-by-2-foot panels -- have a militaristic theme that pairs God and country in an unusual way to modern eyes.

Church member Deirdre Prince puzzled over their significance at the same time she admired their beauty.

When the church board decided to replace the fragile glass, Prince was stirred into action. She needed to find them a home or they'd be destroyed.

Prince decided to do some digging, solve the mystery and save the windows.

The Mystery

Painted on the glass were the initials "G.A.R.," "Navy Post 110, Bremerton" and "presented by the Department of Washington Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic." She discovered the GAR -- Grand Army of the Republic -- was formed in 1866 for Union veterans of the Civil War. An Internet search revealed what a treasure she had on her hands.

"I quickly discovered (the windows) were unique," Prince said. "I could find only one instance on the Web of a GAR window. Neither the American Legion nor the VFW knew anything about a Navy Yard Post 110. Who would be left who cared about (the windows)? It was a bit sad."

More electronic sleuthing revealed the GAR had died out in 1952 and been replaced by the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW).

In April 2002, Prince found a local chapter of the SUVCW and sent an e-mail asking the group if they'd like the windows.

The Man

It turned out the group, headed by Cmdr. Ken Richmond of Sequim, had been searching for the windows for several years. They were spurred on by a 1958 article in "The Banner," the SUVCW's magazine, which described how Bremerton resident Hiram Gale commissioned a pair of windows for the old wooden Bremerton Methodist Church a century ago.

SUVCW records show Hiram Gale, born in Vermont in 1846, served in the 46th Wisconsin Infantry during the Civil War. Gale migrated west to Bremerton, where he served as commander of Navy Yard Post 110, as commander in chief of the GAR in 1945-46 and as the GAR's last commander until his death in 1951 at age 104.

"When Gale passed away, he was the last living Civil War veteran and the highest ranking one to come from Washington," said Rod Fleck of Forks, a member of SUVCW's Governor Isaac Stevens Camp No. 1. "We're acutely aware of Hiram because we're starting to find pictures and documents for him."

The Memories

Now that the link was made between Gale and the First United Methodist Church in Bremerton, Prince quickly fit together the last pieces of the window puzzle.

"The involvement of the church as a military hospital and in service to the servicemen ... created a real intimate connection to the military," Prince said.

Hiram Gale commissioned the windows in gratitude for what they did and for how the church building was used.

The windows were moved to Indianola Community Church in 1962, the year the Methodists moved from Fifth and Pacific to their current location on Marine Drive.

And until Saturday, there they've stayed.

The Move

SUVCW members Fleck, Hal Bellerud of Olympia and Lee Morgan of Kent carefully maneuvered the GAR windows Saturday out of their home for the past 40 years, and onto the church floor. On hand was also Roberta Yeats, president of the Department of Washington Ladies of the GAR.

A close look at one window reveals brittle glass, held together by a curving web of lead. Central medallions were pushed out by vandals. The colorful tapestry is riddled with cracks and holes.

It is the opinion of Suquamish stained-glass artist Larry Hove that the windows' condition is impossible to restore.

It would cost less, he told Prince in a consultation, to commission new windows. Although too fragile to be used as windows again, Fleck hopes a display can be created for them.

"Our groups are working together on (the windows), Yeats said. "We have so much stuff that should go somewhere. Being from Bremerton myself, I can't see ignoring placing a veteran's museum there."

The windows will be stored at Richmond's home in Sequim. Encased in wood and plastic foam, they await a permanent home.


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