Honoring Iowa’s veterans one rock at a time

Freedom Rock

The “Friday Coffee Ladies” were responsible for coordinating the Pottawattamie County Freedom Rock project. Pictured by the finished product are Joyce Clark, Martha Ruehle, Doris Bane, and recently retired Basin Electric director Don Applegate, who is standing in for his late wife, LaDonna. Also not pictured are Hazel Harvey and the late Helen Sue Williams.

A group of retired women in Oakland, IA, moved a mountain.

The “Friday Coffee Ladies,” as they’ve come to call themselves, recently undertook a project of mountainous proportions – to bring an 82-ton rock to Oakland’s Chautauqua Park to honor Pottawattamie County’s veterans and veterans across Iowa.

The project began in 2011, when the women went on a trip to nearby Greenfield, IA, to see the original Freedom Rock, a large boulder that is repainted every year with patriotic images to honor veterans.

The Freedom Rock is a statewide project started by artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen. After being inspired by the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” he wanted to honor veterans and began painting a patriotic scene on a large boulder.

People began traveling from near and far to see it, and since it received such a great response, he decided to expand the project across Iowa, with the goal of getting every county in Iowa to sponsor a Freedom Rock. At present, every county except one either has a Freedom Rock or is in the process of getting one.

Sorensen paints each rock with a common theme in mind – freedom isn’t free – and illustrates this by painting the faces of service men and women from that county who have served their country.

After seeing the rock in Greenfield, the women knew they just had to have one in Pottawattamie County, and since one wasn’t planned at the time, they set out to get one.

Led by LaDonna Applegate, the late wife of recently retired Basin Electric Director Don Applegate, the Friday Coffee Ladies began a process that would take them five years.

“This project was too big for the Friday Coffee Ladies, but we just did it anyhow, challenge by challenge,” Applegate said of the project before her death.

Learn more about the Freedom Rock and find out which Pottawattamie County veterans are painted on it in the November-December 2017 issue of Basin Today: Freedom Rock honors Pottawattamie County veterans.


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