Commemorating World War One in Lansing

Mark Foster hopes church bells and smartphone apps will make this Veterans Day memorable

by Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (November 1, 2018) – On November 11, 1918, an armistice was signed between the Allied Powers and Germany that silenced the guns of World War One. After four years of fighting, bells across Europe rang to celebrate the end of “The Great War.”

On November 11, 2018, towns and villages across the world will ring bells to commemorate the end of World War I and remember the sacrifices of those involved.

Mark Foster hopes Lansing will be one of those villages.

Mark Foster’s grandfather, John Foster, died in April of 1918, about seven months before the armistice was signed. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC. (Photo provided)

Bells and apps

Since learning of his grandfather’s death in the “War to End All Wars,” the 62-year-old lifelong Lansing resident has maintained an interest in the war that led him to write letters to Mayor Eidam and churches in the area, explaining his desire to see Lansing participate in the worldwide commemoration.

Foster’s vision is to have all the churches in Lansing with bells ring them at 11:00am on November 11. The bells would ring 21 times, reminiscent of the 21-gun salute used in formal military occasions.

He is also encouraging residents to download a smartphone app that will “toll the bells” as well.

“I think it would be so awesome to have all the church bells go off in town—and on the phone app,” said Foster.

(Clicking the image will open the app information page on the Commission’s website, in a new tab.)

Worldwide participation

The United States World War One Centennial Commission started spreading the idea in the US, though other countries are expected to participate as well. The Commission was established in 2013 with a mission to “plan, develop, and execute programs, projects, and activities to commemorate the Centennial of World War One.”

As part of a modern commemoration, the Commission created an app called “Bells of Peace: WWI Armistice” that features a countdown to November 11. At 11:00am the app will ring a bell of the user’s choice 21 times. The app also includes resources about the commission and includes a link to donate toward building a WWI memorial in Washington DC.

Lansing participation

“If people’s phones start ringing…and there’s enough commotion in town, people will ask what’s going on and they’ll hear ‘Oh that’s the World War One Commemoration’, [and they’ll say], ‘I’ll be doggoned.’ What better way to raise awareness?” Foster said.

Foster sent a letter to over a dozen Lansing churches explaining the importance of the commemoration. The letter reads, in part:

“This will honor the memory of those [who] served in this great conflict. I am asking that your congregation or facility participate in this worthy endeavor. Congregations might include this as part of the sermons. If you have contacts in the neighboring communities please ask them to participate…so future generations will talk of the Bells of Peace they remembered on this day.”

Only a handful of Lansing churches have bells, but Foster hopes that churches will also consider including a moment of silence at 11:00am during their morning worship services. One of the churches Foster contacted, First Church (PCA) of Lansing, has already agreed to take part in the commemoration and toll their bells.

Foster has also contacted the park district to have any park bells tolled.

Personal connection

Foster’s grandfather, John Foster, was born in Greenfield, Illinois, and was killed in April of 1918 during World War One. Foster has spent hours researching the war in an attempt to learn more about his grandfather.

In 2011 Foster discovered that his grandfather was eligible to receive a Silver Star medal, one of the military’s highest honors. This discovery brought Foster to Memphis, Tennessee, in 2012 to receive the Silver Star on behalf of his grandfather, nearly a century after the man had given his life in “The Great War.” John Foster also received a Purple Heart award posthumously.

Mark Foster receiving the Silver Star Award in 2012 on behalf of his grandfather, who died nearly 100 years earlier in World War One. (Photo provided)

Meaningful remembrance

Though it ended 100 years ago, Foster believes World War One still has meaning: “I think it’s even more relevant today with all the discord that’s going on in the world. There needs to be something that brings people together—even a tiny moment like this,” he said.

After receiving Foster’s letter, Lansing Mayor Patty Eidam has taken an interest in the commemoration. She read an official proclamation at the October 16 Village Board meeting. Selections from her proclamation are below:

“Whereas a century ago, 4.7 million American families sent their sons and daughters off to World War One, and whereas, 351,153 men from the State of Illinois served selflessly and honorably in World War One…and whereas, in November 2018 the world will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the fighting in World War One at 11:00am November 11th, 1918,…I, Patricia L. Eidam…do hereby proclaim November 11, 2018, as World War One Remembrance Day,…recognizing the contributions of all American men and women who served the United States military during World War One.”

Foster was impressed with the proclamation and the Mayor’s interest in the commemoration. He hopes that his efforts to raise awareness will pay off on November 11.

“I just hope that everyone finds it as interesting as I do…I think people in Lansing and people everywhere should appreciate the significance of the armistice,” he said.

To read more about the commemoration and Foster’s research on his grandfather, visit the World War One Centennial Commission’s website: www.worldwar1centennial.org.

 

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4 thoughts on “Commemorating World War One in Lansing”

  1. Not fair to the service organizations doing services at 1100 hrs to have church bells going off disturbing their ceremonies.
    This should have been thought out and planned for a little later time than 1100 hrs for that is when ceremonis start.
    Thought process good, timing bad.

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for your interest in this story and for reading the Lansing Journal! The World War One Centennial Commission has a number of partnering organizations, including the American Legion, who have supported their aim to have church bells (and phone bells) ring countrywide. My sense is that the WWI Centennial Commission intended for this commemoration to perhaps be part of–and complement–ceremonies taking place across the country, not to compete with them. For example, John Monahan, the American Legion’s representative on the World War One Centennial Commission, said the following: “I encourage American Legion posts to not only participate, but to encourage participation at local houses of worship, schools, town halls, firehouses, police stations — anywhere people may gather on that day to honor and remember.”

  2. Why the 11 hour of the 11 month?
    Gen Marshall was a member of the Elks and to the Elks the llth min of the 11th hour is when we stop to remember those who have departed their service to the Elks and their community!

    • The warring powers announced that hostilities will cease at “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”. Thus Armistice day.

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