MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After 11 years of trying to get a veterans home, a western Minnesota town is now celebrating.
Last session, state lawmakers approved new veterans’ homes for Bemidji, Preston and Montevideo. And some of the funding for the 72-bed Montevideo facility is coming from a special donation.
“It’s just unbelievable. And I guess what feels so wonderful is I’m not making trips to St. Paul next winter,” said Mar Garbe, Chair of the Veterans Home Committee.
More than a decade of campaigning is now becoming a reality in Montevideo — a chance to give a new home to those who’ve protected our homeland.
“It’s just going to be so much more comfortable. It won’t look like an institution, it’ll look like a home,” said Garbe.
The push to make this happen caught the attention of decorated Vietnam Veteran Steve Williams, who grew up nearby.
“He always led the charge. He was honored with the bronze star,” said brother Jim Williams. “Veterans Day I’d always call him, thank him for his service. July 4th I’d always call him.”
After the war, Steve had a successful career. And when he heard that the area he grew up in might get a home for veterans, he was ecstatic. But in March, Jim Williams got a call no one ever wants to get. His big brother Steve had passed away.
“I remember going for a walk and it was quiet….and, I know I didn’t sleep a lot for three or four days,” said Jim.
But what Jim didn’t know is that before his death, Steve went to great lengths to make sure his fellow veterans were taken care of. He left behind nearly $2.8 million for the veterans’ home. The largest single private gift to a veterans’ homes in Minnesota history.
“Steve may have been Tom and my blood brother, but these men and, if there are any women over there, you are my brother’s brother,” Jim told a packed crowd full of veterans.
It’s a major win for a small town, but an even bigger win for those who’ve served our country.
“I have looked at this and it’s almost like divine intervention. The Lord took something precious from us, but you’ve got a job to do Steve and he’s doing it. It’s crazy,” said Jim.
Planning is in the pre-design phase and it’s expected to open in the summer of 2021.
Jim says his brother would have been happy to know there will be a two to one match for every dollar Steve donated.
The Montevideo facility has a total project budget of $48.5 million.