Riverview had an original ‘Wall’ thanks to Gertrude and Richard Hage

GERALD PERRY

The Wall that Heals was supposed to be in Riverview weeks ago, but has been postponed to a later date, which has yet to be determined. This Corona virus has been changing everything in all of our lives. I’m sure the committee will keep you posted on any updates. 

The Wall that Heals is a tribute to the servicemen and women who died serving their country in Vietnam. It is a 375-foot scaled replica of the original Vietnam Memorial Wall located in Washington D.C. is said to be the best representation of “The Wall experience” across the United States. 

Long before the actual Vietnam Memorial Wall was built and dedicated in Washington DC, in November 1982, the little town of Riverview, Michigan, population of 6,700 in the early 1960s, built a wall made of plywood, painted it white and put it up in front of City Hall, which back then was located on Fort Street. It was dedicated to the service men from Riverview, who were or had served in the military during the Vietnam War. 

The Riverview Wall was the brainchild of Mrs. Gertrude L. Hage. She went to the Riverview days committee (now known as Summerfest) with the idea for the sign and her idea was accepted almost immediately. 

Gertrude then enlisted the help of her husband, Richard, and began to design and build the wall. 

It was approximately 4 feet by 8 feet with a half round piece on the top with the words, “Riverview Days salutes its servicemen” with an eagle design in the middle, painted by Gertrude. Below this were the words “City of Riverview, Michigan.” 

Each an every year for a couple of years, the sign would be taken down and completely painted over and new names were painted again on the sign. After a few years, Gertrude discovered that the sign (or wall) wasn’t big enough to list every servicemen for the duration of the war, so it was decided that each name would be printed on a small piece of wood and placed on the sign and when the serviceman would return to Riverview, the name would be removed to make room for others who were going into the military. 

On November 10, 1969, in conjunction with Veterans Day, the Flame of Freedom was presented to the City of Riverview by the Riverview American Legion Post 389 Chairman Ted Goodyear, to be placed in front of the Wall. The Riverview Praesidium all girl Color Guard under the direction of Herman Fineburg, presented the Colors at the ceremony. 

After the March 1973 Paris Peace Accord provided a cease fire, U.S. troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and the Riverview Vietnam sign along with an eternal flame were decommissioned in 1976, removed from in front of City Hall and placed in storage. 

Also in January 1976, the Riverview Bicentennial commission honored Gertrude for her work on the servicemen’s Honor Roll Sign. 

In 2012, Mrs. and Mr. Hage were honored during the annual Memorial Day Ceremony, for their precious and thoughtful time working on the original Riverview Vietnam Wall. 

In 2015, the Riverview American Legion Post 389, built a replica of the original Riverview Vietnam Wall and also after an extensive search, placed the names of the 193 service men that were recorded to be on the original wall over a period from when the sign was built, to 1976 when the sign was decommissioned. 

Mrs Gertrude Louise Hage died in January of 2015. In March of 2016, Mr. Richard Hage made a donation of $100,000 to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in his dear wife’s name. 

In a letter from Marlo Thomas herself to Mr Hage, she stated “His generous and benevolent spirit will truly live on through the lives of the children that will be helped by this gift and we are so appreciated.” 

Rest in peace Gertrude, all of the servicemen who were remembered because of your tireless efforts owe you a huge debt of gratitude. 

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