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Sessler to receive Welles Award posthumously

Tears came to Jane Shaffer’s eyes when Lynne Patti of the Waterloo Library and Historical Society announced the name of this year’s recipient of the Welles Award at a meeting of the Celebrate Commemorate committee,The 2012 Henry C. Welles Award will be presented to Shaffer’s father, the late LaVerne M. Sessler. “I can’t think of anyone who has done so much in so many ways to preserve and enhance the history of Waterloo,” Patti said.Named for one of the founders of Memorial Day, the Henry C. Welles Award honors “a citizen of Waterloo, who through tireless effort and many hours of uncompensated time, has made Waterloo a better place to live, work, worship, understand and enjoy,” said Josh Mull, member of the library and historical society’s Board of Trustees and co-chair of the award presentation event. “That certainly describes Vern Sessler.””Look around Waterloo, and everywhere you see Vern Sessler,” agreed co-chair Rick Coe, “especially in the restored Shop Center building which preserved the character of downtown, and the historic windmill visitor’s center, which he restored in 2000 as a tribute to his wife, Barbara.”The presentation of the Welles Award will be made during a special wine and cheese reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Friday, May 25, at the Waterloo Library and Historical Society on Williams Street. LaVerne M. Sessler II will accept the award on behalf of their father, who died on April 16, 2005. Tickets are available at the library. A silent auction also will be held.In 2005, A History of Waterloo 1928-2005 was published by the Sessler Family, It was Verne’s great dream to preserve the history of his beloved home town, and the culmination of a project he supported, encouraged and worked on for nearly a decade. “It is through his wisdom and guidance and love of family and community that the book became a reality,” wrote his granddaughter, Melissa Shaffer Fritz, in the dedication.Sesser founded L.M. Sessler Excavating in 1958, and for the next 47 years guided the company that today ranks in the top 20 specialty demolition firms in the nation. Although he struggled to build his business, add new companies, and to conquer health problems that would have discouraged many, Sessler never lost his love of fun and his pride in his community. In fact, during his tenure as town Supervisor (1974-1985), he always had a line on the agenda encouraging the public to suggest ways to encourage “pride in Waterloo.” In addition to heading the county Board of Supervisors in 1981, Sessler headed or was a member of at least 20 community organizations.Verne’s desire to improve his community didn’t stop with buildings. In 1988, he purchased and restored the 1948 American LaFrance fire truck he remembered riding on as a boy with the Waterloo Fire Department. In 1997, he purchased a 1941 GMC Woodie station wagon that had originally been built in Waterloo at the former Hercules Mid-State Campbell Body Works. He assembled a crew of original Mid-State employees to restore the station wagon, bringing another piece of Waterloo’s history back to Waterloo. Both the station wagon and the fire engine are popular features of the annual Celebrate Commemorate parade, and the National Woodie Car Association holds an annual Memorial Day meeting in Waterloo in Sessler’s honor. As a tribute to their father, in 2005 the Sessler Family made a donation to the Waterloo Library and Historical Society for the establishment of a Woodie exhibit there.Members of Sessler’s family – sons Craig and LaVerne II (Lisa) , daughter Jane (Chris) Sessler Shaffer, their children, Melissa (Brendan) Shaffer Fritz and Matthew (Kate) Shaffer, Daniel, Brian (Megan), Jeffrey, Kevin, LaVerne III and Nicholas and great grandsons Kyle and Zachary, are following in Vern’s footsteps, by working to “make good things happen” in Waterloo.The 13th annual Celebrate Commemorate event will be held May 25-27 in Waterloo, the Birthplace of Memorial Day. For more information about the events, go to www.waterloony.com.

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