BATAVIA — Those who walk by 85 Main St. over the next several days can look in the windows to see mannequins dressed in military uniforms.
A group of retired Genesee County veterans put the displays together Friday morning. It will remain up until Nov. 13, said veteran Al Kurek of Pembroke.
“It’s on the southwest corner of Jackson and Main. It’s going to be all branches of the service …” Kurek said. “It is intended to honor the sacrifices made by our local veterans, living and dead, and garner local interest in the establishment of a permanent military society (museum) based In Batavia.”
Kurek said he was in touch with building owner Ken Mistler, who was kind enough to offer the space, with all the windows facing Main Street, for the display.
“We thought, with this being Veterans Day, the 11th of November, that we would like to do a display honoring our Genesee County veterans,” Kurek said. “We were going to start on the 7th, but when the county authorized the lighting of the (Old) County Courthouse with the green lights for Veterans Day, starting on Saturday (today), we decided to ask Ken and he agreed to let us set up today, so we would be coordinated with them (the county).”
Raising awareness of the sacrifices made by county veterans is the long-term hope, Kurek said.
“I have met with the three (American) Legions in the county and the VFW, talking about possibly establishing a museum or a society. I have all kinds of support and we’re in the process of doing that now,” he said. “We’re going to try to get a five-year temporary society charter. We should get the applications in, hopefully, by the end of November. It’ll take a couple of months before the process is concluded and we’ll give it a try.”
If things work out, Kurek said, the veterans would like to establish the museum/society in Genesee County, particularly in Batavia.
“It’s a great place between two metropolitan areas. We have an awful lot of people that are pro-veterans in this county — not only that, all of Western New York,” he said. “I think it would be a plus for the county, a plus for the veterans. It would be a place for them to come, visit and reminisce.
The museum could be a place for their children to learn about the history of the military, he said.
Kurek recalled going to a military museum in Punta Gorda, Fla.
“They have a beautiful museum there. I talked with the director, Gary Butler. It turns out, everything there is donated,” he said. “It’s all donated from people up north who spend their winters in Florida — even the volunteers. Half the things you’re going to see in here today are donated, other things are on loan.”
The oldest display is the uniform of a Marine who served in Nicaragua in 1926. He served until 1933,” Kurek said. The uniform is on loan from the family.
“I just thought, if they’re going to give them to the people down south, give them to us up north before you take them down there,” he said.
In general, there are 12 full mannequins in the display, plus six half-mannequins on tables, Kurek said. There will also be miscellaneous memorabilia that people can see from the outside.
Mistler said Kurek did all the work to set up the display and that Kurek called him.
Kurek also said military donations may be dropped off at the Veterans Service Agency in County Building No. 2 or by calling (585) 418-4144 for pickup.