Hoefer, Payne speak of local pride in being Americans

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As part of Elgin's Veterans Day observance, Gary Hoefer (l) and Ray Payne (r) spent time Friday putting out flags at the cemetery north of town.

By Jane Schuchardt

Special to The Elgin Review

Editor’s Note: This continues a series of monthly articles celebrating pride in our town and its surroundings shown through the experience of residents and organizations. 

Freedom isn’t free. That truth guides volunteer efforts to commemorate military service, keep the red-white-and-blue flying high, and instill deep-seated pride in being an American. 

Two Elgin community leaders, Gary Hoefer and Ray Payne, proudly shared details of local efforts. The setting was the Elgin Veterans Club headquarters just south of Dean’s Market. The small room inspires patriotism with walls covered with American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars charters, wooden plaques etched with names of Elgin’s war dead, and United States flags that have respectfully adorned the caskets of fallen soldiers.  

Payne, with Hoefer nodding his head in agreement, said he volunteers because “being in the military is a camaraderie” that lasts forever. 

Both of these Army veterans and lifelong rural Elgin residents credited their dads, now deceased, who also served, for their ongoing volunteerism passion related to military honor, respect, and remembrance. 

Hoefer said his dad, Leonard, a WWII veteran, encouraged him to sign up as an American Legion member. “Being in the color guard at a funeral with your dad is special; not everybody gets to do that,” Hoefer said with a twinge of sadness as he recounted presenting the American flag to his mother, Juan, at his dad’s funeral. 

For the rest of this story, see this week’s Elgin Review.