By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Bob Craig's involvement with the renovation and expansion of the All Wars Museum on the campus of the Illinois Veterans Home stretches beyond the proverbial labor of love.
"It's a passion," Craig says.
And that's understandable.
Craig, who has served as curator of the museum for 13 years, is a Vietnam veteran with a keen sense of U.S. military involvement through the years. He can identify with each and every piece of history contained within the museum walls.
That's why Craig, above all others, is so anxious for the July 4 grand re-opening.
"We felt that would be an appropriate day," he said.
The renovation has been a work in progress for about three years. The finished product will feature more display area, thanks in part to some gerrymandering of space at the Veterans Home and some alterations in the facility's overall layout.
"We're now able to use a lot more stuff that had been in storage," said Craig, who over the years has crafted displays and information pertaining to all of the major conflicts for which the United States has been a participant.
The mission of the museum is to preserve and exhibit artifacts and equipment relevant to the history of America's military engagements. The museum has 5,000 to 10,000 items from every U.S. military engagement dating from the Revolutionary War through the current war on terrorism.
Craig is also an accomplished artist, a talent that has served him well at the museum.
"My role here has also allowed me time to (concentrate) on my artwork," said Craig, who is working on a detailed project that will find its way to the museum later this year.
Some of Craig's artwork is already on display, but the piece de resistance could be a 6-foot-by-11-foot mural that is tied to the history of the Medal of Honor. There's an interesting connection to Quincy that few probably realize.
The first Medals of Honor were awarded during the Civil War after President Abraham Lincoln signed the award into law in December 1861.
In 1862, a group of 21 Union soldiers and two civilian raiders pilfered a large locomotive in Georgia and headed north to try to assist the Union cause. They were ultimately captured, imprisoned and/or killed. A few survived and eventually received the Medal of Honor.
One of those survivors was a man named Martin J. Hawkins, a native of Ohio who ultimately wound up relocating in Quincy. He is buried in Woodland Cemetery.
Craig's mural depicts this piece of American history. The work is scheduled to be finished in early fall.
"The mural will take about three months to paint," Craig said.
That time frame does not include the months and months of preparation that included a trip to Georgia. Craig wanted to use some of the famed red Georgia clay in his artwork.
The general public will first be able to see the finished product during the annual Nov. 11 Veterans Day celebration inside Lippencott Hall.
There is also a special display at the museum centered around the Medal of Honor awarded to the late Lester Hammond of Quincy for his bravery in the Korean War. It is the only Medal of Honor awarded to a local resident and was presented to the museum for display by members of the Hammond family.
A mural devoted to Hammond was created by Craig and is on display at the museum.
Many items in the museum have a long, personal history. And Craig is always more than willing to share the information behind any or all of the artifacts.
"A of personal items have been donated to the museum," Craig said. "That's important."
Any questions pertaining to or about the All Wars Museum can be directed to (217) 222-8641