Continuing with its annual tradition, Illinois-based Finnegan’s RV will once again be offering tours of Rockton and South Beloit to see some of the beautiful displays.
According to a report in the Beloit Daily News, the first set of RVs will depart from Grinnell Hall Senior Center on Wednesday (Dec. 11). The tours are open to both members and non-members of the center, but are exclusive to senior citizens.
Co-owner Mark Finnegan said that there will be four motorhomes available that can accommodate nine passengers each for a total of 36 available spots.
“We may add a second night depending on demand,” he said, noting a second set of tours will be offered the following week.
Finnegan’s RV holiday tours originally began in the 1970s and were started by Mark Finnegan’s father, Cy.
“What we did initially the first several years is we would take people from nursing homes and take them around to see the lights,” Mark Finnegan said. “But as time went on, it got to be a little tough because many were in rough condition.”
The tours then transitioned into taking people from senior centers with less serious medical issues.
Finnegan says his father started the event as a way of reaching out to seniors who might otherwise be troubled during the holidays.
“I think it was just a matter of wanting to be community-oriented. With some of the seniors, sometimes that was the only time they would get out of those nursing homes,” Finnegan said. “It just gave them a shot of excitement during a special time of year.”
Click here to link to a series of videos produced by WMTV-TV, Beloit, Wis., about this project, which pays tribute to this country’s World War II veterans.
The sound of the bugle signals their departure. Nine RVs and three coach buses leave Beloit on a 800-mile journey east to fulfill the dreams of more than 100 World War II veterans.
“They call them the greatest generation and they truly are. This is just a small small way of thanking them for everything they did for our country,” said Mark Finnegan.
In February, Finnegan of Finnegans’ RV in South Beloit, Ill., had an idea. Wanting to make sure every World War II veteran got to see their memorial, he pioneered a non-profit called VetsRoll. In a couple short months the venture raised $85,000 in donations and attracted 80 eager volunteers.
The convoy left Wisconsin on May 17, after a brief stop at another famous memorial (Flight 93) they rolled into our nation’s capital.
For many of these veterans this could be their last chance to see Washington. So, they were busy. They visited the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Korean Memorial and even witnessing the charging of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery
But, they truly saved the best for last.
One hundred and fifteen World War II veterans came on this trip. One hundred and fifteen heroes who waited 65 long years to see their memorial, and the name of their home state chiseled into one of its columns.
Willy Armstrong: “It just grabs at your heart.”
Richard Kaczmarek: “The way we have been treated, I just can’t believe it. I didn’t think we were that important. I though we were like anyone else, you know. We appreciate all the things that we done for us. I’ll never forget it.”
George Olson: “It’s wonderful. It just took so long to get built. I’m glade we got a chance to see it while we’re still here. It brings back a lot of memories for the fellas that you served with and the ones that were lost to war and the fights we went through at that time.”
Leroy Waldman: “I think it’s great. It’s about time we got one.”
George. Kuehne: “I think it’s gorgeous. it’s just beautiful. It’s fantastic. This has been a fantastic trip.”
Allen. Kuehne: “I would hate to undertake something like this here. Mark Finnegan and his brother John did a fabulous job.”
Walt Harezlak: “You can’t beat it. It’s really fabulous. It’s unbelievable. Just to be part of it is really something.”
On this website the station has posted three web exclusive interviews with veterans from the trip.
One man fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
Another man talks about serving with one of WWII’s most decorated heroes.
And the final interview is with the only woman on the trip. She was one of just 80,000 woman who served in the Navy during the war.