It was in June that I wrote about the tiny town of Dana, Ind., just north of Terre Haute.
It's the birthplace and childhood home of Hoosier journalist and 1944 Pulitzer Prize winner Ernie Pyle, who was killed in 1945 during World War II while on assignment filing his famed columns for Scripps Howard News Service.
Because of the financially strapped state of our state, the Ernie Pyle State Historical Site, which includes quite an expansive museum and restored/recreation of his childhood home, has been closed since Jan. 1. This important part of Indiana history has been a state historic site since 1976 and since 1995 has included a visitor center filled with artifacts and exhibits from Pyle's life as a World War II correspondent in addition to a nod to his boyhood farm family roots.
Since writing about efforts to save this landmark, I've received plenty of e-mails supporting rescuing this place that's about to fade away.
The Department of Natural Resources has said closing the Dana landmark saves taxpayers $50,000 in maintenance costs a year, pointing to low visitor attendance of around 1,500 visitors a year. However, the state has also done little, such as basic signage to direct potential visitors from the expressways to experience this Pyle tribute.
Friends of Ernie Pyle, a group that has supported the site and maintained it following the Jan. 1 finale, is continuing their fight to appeal the decision.
Phil Hess, president of Friends of Ernie Pyle, already has met with the governor's top aides attempting to persuade the administration to reconsider this decision to close the Pyle home permanently.
One suggestion to Hess and the Friends of Ernie Pyle from DNR Director Robert Carter has the state willing to consider transferring the home to the local group and might even consider allowing it to retain its state historic site designation.
Pat Malott of the Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum in Millville, Ind., is the most recent person to come forward to help lend his ideas and support. Here's what he has to say:
"Hello! I recently read an article in our local newspaper, The Courier-Times, quoting you concerning the probability of the closing of the Ernie Pyle Museum in Dana. Ind.
I, myself, have never visited the facility, but it struck a cord in my heart. I am with the Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum in Millville, Ind. A few years back, we too, were told by the DNR that this birthplace was being closed and the home itself, being moved to Summit Lake State Park, about 20 miles north of us to be used as an office building. I was not associated with the birthplace at the time that this happened. But I do know that area farmers, businessmen, etc. got together and asked the state for permission to run the facility. In 1995, the state deeded the property over to the Wilbur Wright Birthplace Preservation Society (a 501 3c nonprofit organization). We are now celebrating our 15th anniversary of being guided by volunteers. We have three main fundraisers a year, including a membership drive, a June festival and a Christmas Tree Festival, with the trees being sponsored by area businesses. We also have a homemade soup and chili dinner during the Christmas Walk. The income from these fundraisers keeps our doors open.
We have only one paid employee/caretaker who manages the gift shop and cleans the facility. We also offer school tours with volunteers as our guides and charge small admission fees, helping keep our doors open. If there is any way that we can be of assistance, please let us know. Thank you. Pat Malott."
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