State dedicates new 72-bed Montevideo Veterans Home

By Tim Engstrom
Veterans and their supporters fill the Steven J. Williams Community Room at the Montevideo Veterans Home on May 31.

MONTEVIDEO — Montevideo American Legion Post 59 Past Commander Marv Garbe told it like it was at the dedication of the new 72-bed veterans home in Montevideo on May 31.

Garbe, chairman of the local Veterans Home Committee that has pushed for a veterans home to be built in Montevideo for 16 years, said it was 12 years to get state bonding dollars, two years to get federal VA funding and two years to construct the building.

Of the original four members of the committee from 2007, two have passed. They were Kenny Hill and Don Lofthus. Only Dennis Anderson and Garbe remain. All are or were Post 59 Legionnaires. Anderson was the Chippewa County veteran service officer at the time.

“Our research indicated there were 1,500-plus veterans in Minnesota that could be placed in a veterans home. Our mission was that a veterans home could be constructed in Montevideo so our veterans had a place in their area for care and within reasonable traveling distance for the family to visit,” he said.

In January 2008, they met at Post 59 with late state Sen. Gary Kubly (a Vietnam veteran) and state Rep. Lyle Koenen to talk about bonding dollars for a veterans home.

Montevideo American Legion Post 59 Past Commander Marv Grabe speaks at the dedication ceremony on May 31.

They moved forward, met with MDVA and began a preapplication process. They testified before committees at the Capitol. They thought they had succeeded in winning lawmakers over.

“After that, the floodgates opened and every community in the state thought they were the best place for a veterans home. After a couple years of going down and testifying and nobody could make a decision, the legislature in  their infinite wisdom decided to appoint a committee, which made it take longer,” Garbe said.

They could not agree on a location or criteria. After a couple of years, the committee decided there were too many requests and threw them all out ands started over, Garbe said. Montevideo reapplied with a 72-bed proposal, not 90.

Lawmakers changed, too. Kubly passed in 2012. Koenen filled his Senate seat. Tim Miller became state rep. There were years with no bonding bills. They kept having to go back and regroup.

“During that time, I received a note from Pat Kubly, spouse of the late Sen. Kubly, who said Gary told her to tell Marv to never give up.”

Angela Steinbach, assistant manager, reinvigorated the committee. There was another election; they had to reeducate legislators. They joined forces with Bemidji. Later, they joined with Preston.

The Montevideo High School band welcomes people to the dedication of the Montevideo Veterans Home.

Thanks to Sen. Andrew Lang, Tim Miller and Rep. Dean Urdahl and numerous other legislators, bonding passed in 2018.  They found the land cost was not included in the bonding request. It was “all hands on deck to raise that money,” he said.

Then COVID happened. Finally, in March 2021, the feds announced their share of the funding. Tina Smith’s office called Montevideo City Hall, and then-Commissioner Larry Herke called Garbe, both announcing the federal money had been approved.

“I could hardly believe it,” Garbe said.

The many trips to St. Paul paid off.

“It’s amazing that all three projects were approved — Montevideo, Bemidji and Preston. Remember I put them in the order they started working on them, not alphabetically,” he added.

Gov. Tim Walz complimented Garbe on summarizing the long process.

“There were some hard truth bombs being dropped right there,” the governor said.

Montevideo Veterans Home Administrator Ashley Bormann welcomes visitors to the dedication ceremony on May 31.

At the top of his comments, though, Walz asked for a moment of silence for Minneapolis Police Officer Jamal Mitchell, who was slain in the line of duty May 30.

Walz said the Montevideo Veterans Home will be present for veterans as long as Minnesota exists.

“This community of Montevideo took on a responsibility that will be there as long as this great nation stands.”

He praised the veterans community for avoiding partisan politics, and he praised Vietnam veterans for changing the way America welcomes home veterans and cares for veterans. He read a certificate from Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Seventh District Congresswomen Michelle Fischbach said attacks on law enforcement need to stop.

“We need to support law enforcement and have their backs,” she said.

She praised Montevideo for being a veteran-friendly community and said the Montevideo Veterans Home will be a place to care for veterans and western Minnesota residents won’t have to travel so far to see loved ones.

State Sen. Andrew Lang, a major in the 34th Aviation Brigade and vice chairman of the Senate State & Local Government & Veterans Committee, called on the governor to prompt the Senate to return to having a Senate Veterans & Military Affairs Committee.

Walz agreed he would push for that.

Officials gather for a group photo after the ceremony.

Lang said it is true that veterans are an area where veterans come together. He and Walz both spoke about how the Legislature has completed, passed and signed the Veterans & Military Omnibus Bill two weeks early for three years in a row, removing much of the veteran-related legislation from partisan politics.

He told the story of how the construction of new veterans homes came to be funded at the Capitol in a bonding bill. In it, he credited past state Rep. Bob Dettmer of Forest Lake for the idea of funding three new vets homes, not having to pick one of the three finalists.

Redwood Falls Mayor Erich Winter said his grandfather moved into the Montevideo Veterans Home and was the first veteran to die at the home. Erwin F. Winter passed May 6.

He was impressed by how the staff held a flag ceremony, with staff and veterans saluting.

“I will remember that the rest of my life. It was the staff that did that,” Winter said. “I am grateful that he was only five minutes away from me at that time.”

Grabe presented a $2,500 check from American Legion Post 59 in Montevideo.


The largest gift ever

Jim Williams, right, brother of benefactor Steven Williams, shakes hands with Duane Anderson, left, a childhood friend of Steven Williams. Steven donated $2.8 million to the home.

After that, friends of the late Steven J. Williams spoke. The Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War gave the largest gift ever to a Minnesota Veterans Home. He gave $2.8 million from his estate, for the benefit of the Montevideo Veterans Home.

The community room at the home is named for him. He died in March 2018. His brother, Jim, was trustee of the estate and ensured the donation went as planned while the project awaited state and federal funding.

After college, Williams accepted a job in sales for Hormel Foods in Austin. He invested in the company worked with for over 30 years and was able to use proceeds from his investments for the large gift. He grew up in Montevideo.