ECCCMA Opens First Floor of Courthouse

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Published on November 12 2012 1:13 pm
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Millie Lange

The Effingham County Cultural Center and Museum Association formed in 2009 and now three years later has accomplished several major goals.

"We established ECCCMA in 2009 and prior to that a similiar group existed from 1999 until last year," said ECCCMA President Delaine Donaldson. "We wanted to save the courthouse and we wanted to make it into a museum that the town of Effingham would be proud of and I think we've accomplished those goals."

The transformation of the courthouse began in early spring of this year and the group has worked hard and that culminated in a special ceremony and opening of the first floor Sunday afternoon on Veteran's Day.

Crowds of people enter the hallway at the courthouse on their way to viewing each room during the Open House Sunday.

"One of the first things we had to do was prepare the building and that meant asbestos abatement," said Donaldson. "We then began to work three months ago to start transforming the first floor into a museum. That meant a lot of painting, cleaning, stripping floors, getting photos framed, building a train room, working on displays and those sort of things.

"It meant very long days and a special thank you goes out to Jerry Katz and Loella Baker for putting in days that typically started at 8:30 a.m. and ran until 5 p.m. and that was also on the weekends. And, of course, there were many others that also contributed their time and their talents."

Dan Wormhoudt (left as a conductor) and Loella Baker (red shirt) show off the Veteran's Room to visitors Sunday.

Open on the first floor are a Veteran's Room which will switch out displays on different conflicts every six months. To start out with, the Veteran's Room has displays of World War II. The next room displays veteran's photographs put together by Jane Ries, the USS Effingham and the USS Loy.

The next room is the Media Room where meetings and educational programs will be held. The two rooms across the hall are the Transportation Room with displays of transportation modes in Effingham and the Train Room that has moving trains and also will, when the display is completed, have scenery and depots from every town in the county.

Sunday opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony that included Mary Truitt, president of the National Road Association of Illinois speaking along with Donaldson. Attending were Lorean Macklin of Effingham, the last surviving sibling of Jackson Keith Loy who died in WWII when he was 20 years old. The USS Loy was named after him.

Also attending was Bud Ruff of Peoria who served on the USS Effingham. Ruff joined the Navy in June of 1944 when he was 17 years old. He went through boot camp and cargo handling school in Williamsburg, Va. He was then sent to Astoria, Oregon where he picked up the ship and was trained.

"We hit every island in the Pacific and put 100,000 miles on her," said Ruff. "We were at the Okinawa Invasion and had the USS Indianapolis tied up alongside of us to protect her. We shot down a Japanese plane attempting to sink the Indianapolis. We didn't lose a person.

"Then when the war had ended we did Magic Carpet runs to pick up sailors and take them back to the states. We also picked up Marines and took them to Japan for the surrender. After that we took more soldiers home and then we headed to the East Coast where they decomissioned the ship.

"I would say half of the ship's crew were between 17 and 18 years old," said Ruff.

Jane Ries (right) talks to visitors in the room that houses the Veteran's photographs, the USS Effingham and USS Loy information.

The USS Loy was named after Jackson Keith Loy who was killed when he was 20 years old. He was the eighth youngest child of Alonzo and Carrie Loy. He served as a gunner on the U.S. Navy aboard the USS San Francisco. He was killed in action November 12, 1942 in the battle of Guadalcanal. He was a Gunner's Mate Third Class and was buried at sea.

Playing on the Media Room screen was "They Served With Honor", produced and director by Craig Lindvahl. The 64-minute documentary provides a view of America during  World War II focusing on war veterans living in the Effingham area.

Children of all ages will enjoy the Train Room put together by Russ Thomas and helpers.

Visitors enjoy the Train Room Sunday at the Effingham County Courthouse.

The museum will be open several days a week. Now the ECCCMA group will continue to work on the bottom floor before heading to the second floor. If you would like to join the ECCCMA group, cost is $25 per year and that money goes to continue the work on the courthouse.