MORRISON – About 20 people milled about the community room at the Odell Public Library in Morrison on Tuesday evening for a reception hosted in honor of a man who came bearing some very special gifts.
Those gifts included the last flag to be flown on the USS Whiteside, a naval ship that served in World War II and the Korean War. Named after Whiteside County (AKA-90), the ship was commissioned on Sept. 11, 1944.
The man who brought those gifts is 86-year-old Arlo Ericson, who made the trip along with his wife all the way from St. Joseph, Missouri, a town about 50 miles north of Kansas City.
Ericson, who served on the ship for 16 months, has been putting together reunions for his crewmates for the past 10 years now, and part of that duty also means taking care of – and holding on to – the last flag that was flying on the ship before it was decommissioned in 1958.
The reception featured sandwiches, snacks, sodas and such. For his part, in addition to the flag, Ericson put together a large stack of pamphlets that explained the Whiteside's history, which guests were more than welcome to grab.
Along a table in the front, he also placed the flag and a few piles of random memorabilia. A dig through one of the boxes yielded a Chinese language instructional manual provided by the Department of Defense, and various logs and telegraphs kept from the ship's voyages – contributed by other Whiteside alumni.
There was also an old 4-by-4-foot map of the Pacific Ocean, which showed everywhere the Whiteside went during World War II.
"I think it should all be in Whiteside," Ericson said during a phone interview last week. "That's where it belongs."
After the reception, the memorabilia was presented at the Whiteside County Board meeting.
County Administrator Joel Horn said he's very excited to have this piece of history coming home to the county.
"We've been talking about it for months," he said.
The flag and photographs will be hung somewhere in the courthouse, Horn said, while the rest of the logs and artifacts will be stored by the county.