The 24th addition to Perry’s Wall of Witnesses will be unveiled at 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 24 in Soumas Court, 1112 Willis Ave. The wall references an Old Testament passage that extorts the faithful to bear witness to the men and women who have gone before them to care for their communities.
Chosen for the honor is the late Dallas “Pete” VanKirk. Under his management and leadership, the Progressive Foundry more than tripled in size, with a resulting expansion in employees and markets. Community members who nominated VanKirk referenced both his public gifts and those he gave with quiet compassion. For example, he was the lead donor of the DMACC VanKirk Career Academy, and the baseball and football fields in Perry’s athletic complex. Every year, he and his wife, Joyce, gave $15,000 in need-based scholarships to help Perry seniors pursue a post-secondary education.
Quieter gifts were given in the form of coaching, mentoring and personal support. A nominee remembers the time VanKirk returned to a Recreation Center locker room to discover a young man going through his clothes and wallet. He responded not by calling law enforcement, but by becoming the young man’s mentor. Other nominees recall times he and his family provided food, clothing and shelter to those in need, including helping to relocate two “Lost Boys of Sudan.”
The entire community is invited to the celebration, which includes the installation of a bas relief of VanKirk’s image, created by Newton sculptor Rick Stewart, comments from friends and family and light refreshments.
The Wall of Witnesses is made possible by a partnership between the Perry Historical Society and Hometown Heritage.