Johan and I visited the Livingston County War Museum in Pontiac, IL on 11 August 2018. David Estes, son of Dal Estes, for whom the museum was created, invited me to visit when he attended one of my WWII programs in 2017. You know how, You don’t know what you don’t know? Or you don’t know what you’re missing? I’ll be honest and explain I didn’t know what I was missing!
Pontiac is roughly an hour south of where I live in the Chicago area. It was December that David attended my talk and invited me to visit the museum. In my mind, I was really busy between my business, kids, weather, traveling to and from Europe as often as I do. I had a point of view about driving an hour to visit a small town off I-55 in Illinois to see a small museum. Going there was not on the top of my priority list. I thought, when I am traveling down or up I-55, I’ll try to stop. Someday.
Wow was I wrong in my point of view! After one visit, the museum is a place I want to return to and spend more than a couple of hours.
I made arrangements to stop at the museum on our way back to Chicago from a trip we were taking. It worked out that we would have about two hours or more to stop and see the museum. As you know, I’m an empath and medium. I perceive a lot of energy that others do not. I am able to send souls to the light, heal people, places, and things with just existing in a space, shaking their hand, moving some energy. My body is capable of a lot of different ways to heal – not all pleasant I discovered.
That morning I woke up exhausted and with a small headache. Even after breakfast and coffee I wasn’t feeling great. I let Johan drive and the headache began to turn more into a migraine complete with nausea. My awareness told me that the cause was my visit to the museum. Apparently my body was processing a lot of energy and I knew once something happened at the museum (a meeting, a conversation, someone walking in the door), the pain would subside and it would all be ok. I was also aware that I was connected to this something and healing would take place for me too.
We arrived at the museum and David greeted us and told us a little about the historical building the museum was housed in and took us upstairs to the museum. My initial thought that a museum that occupied the top floor of an old courthouse or firehouse could not be that large. Again, I was wrong. The space may not be national military museum size but it contains so many stories. It is unlike any other museum I’ve seen in the states or Europe.
We were greeted inside the museum by mannequins all dressed in uniforms from WWI to the present. These uniforms were donated by the veteran or a family member and ALL of them lived in Livingston County except for one. With each uniformed mannequin, there was also attached a photo where possible of the service member and a short biography of their service.
For anyone searching for information and photos of WWI or WWII service members from Livingston County, this museum is a place to contact asking for assistance.
Stories are what I love and think we should be creating more of about our service members so we better understand them, the wars in which they fought, our families, and ourselves. The Livingston County War Museum does an incredible job telling the stories. These mannequins were only the start of what was there.
David gave us a tour of the museum which contained a main room with model airplanes, artifacts, mannequins, stories. There is a WWI room with a research library for all wars. The WWI room has a lot of photos and artifacts and so many stories I think you need 30-45 minutes minimum in that room. The main room contains more mannequins and stories, flags, shelves and cases filled with artifacts, and so much more.
The museum is run primarily by volunteers, veterans who man the desks, answers questions, educate through Skype in the Classroom all around the world, and tell stories. The museum offers school group tours and encourage more schools to arrange a visit. They also have a YouTube channel with videos and veteran interviews. I met Raleigh, a Navy veteran from WWII who told us he was on a Destroyer in the Atlantic. The gentleman who donated the model planes at the front of the museum told us a funny story in which he made Raleigh the primary reason we won the war. We all had a good laugh.
If you can perceive the energy, you will feel it in the museum. To me it felt ok as if I was being embraced. After about an hour in the museum, perceiving energy in some spots more intensely than others, I had a couple of conversations with some veterans and my almost migraine left. Poof – gone! And then in walked a 69th Infantry Division Veteran (who will remain nameless for privacy), regaled us with stories of his training, did a little tap dancing, and then magic happened. First, he could not believe he was standing in a war museum at the age of 97 or talking to us all and that we wanted to listen. Second, I was aware a lot of healing was going to happen.
The veteran had no idea Johan is Dutch and lives in the Netherlands (or Holland as the GIs knew it and called it during the war). The veteran told us at one point he helped liberate a camp with French, Belgian, and Dutch workers (this choked him up a bit). When I told him Johan was Dutch, the tears began to flow, hugging commenced, I started tearing up, and an intense healing came for not only those of us in the room but all those who were part of the war attached to the 69th or these camps. The veteran again started saying he couldn’t believe he was there and that he was meeting us at the age of 97. It was a beautiful moment to be a part of.
We spoke with the veteran on and off throughout the last 30 minutes or so of our visit as we all moved through the museum. Maybe he will come to Europe next year for one of the anniversaries the 69th Infantry Division commemorates. He said he would like to.
I would like to leave you with a few photos and some final thoughts.
- Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know and often don’t know what you are missing. Try not to put off visiting places you know intuitively you should go.
- Timing is important. I am aware that the timing of a visit or meeting often happens when people are ready for it. Maybe I wasn’t ready or the people with whom I had conversations weren’t ready. Honor your timing.
- Do not pass up a small museum off the highway because of your points of view. You never know what is inside that will change your life.
- Pay attention to the stories in the small museums – they often appear more powerful because the museum volunteers have more knowledge about the men and women, their service, and their sacrifice.
- Finally, you never know who is going to walk through the door of these small museums and change your life or the world. The atmosphere in the small museums, as compared to national military museums, is more intimate. You can have a longer conversation without being bothered by a lot of noise or activity. You can have those more intimate moments with people that are not possible elsewhere.
Am I ready to go back to the museum? YES YES YES!!! One conversation I had with David opened up several new possibilities for my life, he told me something that is very important for me to do which I have been putting off, and there is an amazing energy there that begs you to return. Once I get my thoughts organized and create more of the healing side of my business, I do plan to return and talk with David more. And yes, I promise I will write my story and get it into the world. Plus, you never know who you will meet!
What small museums have you visited that you can recommend in the states or Europe? Where should Johan and I go next on our travels?
© 2018 WWII Research and Writing Center
Mark Conrad says
If you’re ever in Dayton, Ohio, stop and visit us at the Miami Valley Military History Museum – we’re located on the grounds of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (even though we’re on VA property, my wife and I operate on “our time and our dime”. We’re also partners with the Department of Defense 50th Anniversary of Vietnam War Commemoration…especially important to me wife as her father was Killed In Action on Easter Sunday, 1969. Our displays span 1775 to the present. We also have a lot of research material for Ohio service members.