Late September a small group of family and friends gathered in the Western Technical College parking lot to dedicate a peace pole in the memory of Charles F. Dahl, longtime business man and former mayor of Viroqua. The mural on the rear of Buzzy’s rear wall was also dedicated.
A peace pole is a hand-crafted monument that displays the message and prayer, “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” On six sides of the pole this prayer is in twelve languages, some of which are in honor of the original settlers to the area. The languages are in English, Ho-Chunk, Norwegian, Spanish, French, Gaelic, Russian, Chinese, Basque, Japanese, French, Hebrew, and several species of animal prints. Hostas form a crescent around the pole. There are tens of thousands of peace poles in 180 countries all over the world dedicated as monuments to peace.
Dahl served 35 years in both the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserve in top secret communications and medical service. He was a longtime City Council member and mayor of Viroqua who died March 6, 2015 after a 25-year struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Having served under many naval officers and commanders in chief, he strongly felt that the military should be used defensively and never for empire building, exploitation of native peoples or for fattening the coffers of multi-nationals. He saw the ravages of war firsthand and felt that the lives of our national treasure, the men and women in uniform, should never be squandered.
The gathering honored Dahl, as well as dedicated the mural painted by students of the Youth Initiative High School in an art-in-public places program on the rear wall of Buzzy’s. Pete Hodapp, professional artist and muralist, supervised the students.
Hodapp said, “I love teaching through group projects like the Viroqua Institutions barn near where the alms house and asylum once stood, but more recently I was asked by the City of Madison to work with the students of Capitol High to do a similar project.” He continued, “History can be a great vehicle to get students engaged while giving them a taste of collaboration and a look at the history all around us that we rarely take notice of. It is also a great way to funnel many opinions into one final piece. The students always come away with a bit more understanding and appreciation of the place they live. These projects also give old buildings new life and cause for people to stop and appreciate what was already there.”
The dedication ceremony was opened by Mike Day, a member of the Ho-Chunk nation, who chanted a Ho-Chunk song of welcome and of peace accompanied by drumming. The spectators were each given a pinch of tobacco to sprinkle on the area around the peace pole as an offering. Karen Dahl shared with the crowd Chuck’s outlook on world peace, his utter respect for those who serve, his lifelong study and use of science in his life and profession, and his understanding and compassion for the human condition. Karen Dahl said he was a quiet, thoughtful philanthropist who particularly loved children, his farming friends and the people of Vernon County and the area.
At the conclusion of the dedication, Nancy Dove Song, a Lacota Native American, sang in her language a ceremonial song honoring Mother Earth, women, water and life.
Hodapp followed the dedication with an explanation of the mural behind Buzzy’s building and visited with people, telling of the decision process and inclusion of old Main Street businesses. A reception followed.