Rick Fredericksen

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Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

O.B Laing Middle School is just the latest abandoned school building to be repurposed. Conversions started long ago with antique one-room country schools. Lately it's full-sized structures getting a makeover. This two-story brick edifice was built 86 years ago. The old homerooms will re-open later this year as living rooms, with 29 apartments for rent.  Standing in the old office is former principal Greg Stewart, who now helps the developer manage the property.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

A fading tradition is preserved at West Point Military Academy; a live color guard and bugler raise and lower the Stars and Stripes every day. Iowa's largest military installation plays a recording, and the flag flies day and night because it is lighted. 

Greg Hapgood is Public Affairs Officer for the Iowa National Guard. "Here at Camp Dodge we have reveille at 7 a.m. each morning and at 5 p.m. each night we have what's called retreat," says Hapgood. "So reveille is the raising of the flag. Retreat is the lowering of the flag." 

Robert Gannon

It's where most of us will end up some day: there are well over 5,000 cemeteries in Iowa. One of the state's unique resting places is being prepared for an autumn celebration. 

On a hilltop near Mingo, more than 200 Iowans are buried at Sams Cemetery; the earliest grave is a three month old child who died in 1855. Times were tough for early settlers. Dozens of children are resting here, eight Civil War soldiers among the veterans, a murder victim, and John Sams who started the cemetery. He died of measles.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

A new $10 million emergency department was dedicated today at the VA Central Iowa Health Care System in Des Moines. 

About 1,000 veterans a month arrive at the Des Moines facility needing emergency treatment. The new addition includes a designated space for infectious disease care, decontamination showers and eight private treatment rooms, including one for mental health crisis. 

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

From the outside, it looks the same as it did on opening day in 1924 when one and a half million bricks became the headquarters of the Equitable Life Insurance Company. In its prime, just about everyone in Des Moines came here to see a dentist or doctor, buy a wedding ring at Josephs, or a milk shake at King's Pharmacy.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

A striking restoration project has been completed at Terrace Hill. The governors' residence now features a reflecting pool.

Originally an outdoor swimming pool dating back to the 1920s, it may have been the first private pool in Des Moines.  It was filled in and went largely unnoticed for decades, but donations were secured to revive this piece of lost history which is now clearly visible during public tours of the old Hubbell Mansion. 

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

You can't miss Dan Hartzer in his red fox hunting jacket, black top hat, and over-the-knee boots. After 65 years of playing trumpet, he is Iowa's only racetrack bugler, helping to preserve a racing tradition as iconic as the winner's circle or a photo finish.

"I have a microphone on the end of my horn but I play the bugle call, Call to Post," he says. "That tells everyone that the horses are coming onto the track, the horses are out there to be viewed and place their bets on them."

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

One-hundred seventy-six years after James and Martha Littleton brought their children to southeast Iowa, the story of this pioneer family's profound misfortune is being honored for the first time. A monument is being dedicated next week in memory of an epic loss going back to the Civil War. 

A gleaming 25,000 pound black granite monolith was lowered into place in April, along the Great River Road in the modest little town of Toolesboro. It revives bleak memories of a more famous wartime tragedy. Dan Lilli, who is with Watts Vault and Monument Company, helped design the memorial.

Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

A group of Civil War patriots is re-marking U.S. Highway-6 in honor of soldiers who served in the Union Army. 

Running from Council Bluffs to Davenport, old U.S. Highway-6 was named the "Grand Army of the Republic Highway" in 1947. Many of the road signs proclaiming the highway's tribute have vanished. Now more than 150 years since the Civil War, Iowans are working to save the memory. Dan Rittel is with the group Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Walter Rollman

A quarter-century after its return to Iowa, the sandhill crane continues to expand its range across the state. Volunteers have completed their annual census. 

Enthusiasts gather before sunrise at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt, a vast wildlife and recreation area in the northeast Polk County -- the state's most metropolitan county. 

"We hear all the time, people will tell us they'll say I didn't know this was here, I had no idea it was here, and you know we're 30 miles from Des Moines, maybe 20 miles as a crow flies," says Doug Sheely, a supervisor at Chichaqua.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

A new plaque will be dedicated this morning to honor Iowa's secondary casualties stemming from the Vietnam War: victims of PTSD, Agent Orange and suicide. 

"We've got 867 names on the wall, but what about these other people? That's the purpose of this plaque is to remember and honor those other veterans that served but weren’t killed, but they've certainly suffered a lot of issues in their life since they've came home," says Col. Robert King, Director of the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Friday is Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day. A granite plaque will be dedicated at the Statehouse to honor Iowa war casualties from secondary causes: like PTSD, suicide and Agent Orange. That's a controversial chemical that some people feel may now be sickening Iowans who are the children and grandchildren of Vietnam vets. They're calling for more studies on the chemical's effects. 

Victor Daly / Ft. Des Moines Museum

Nearly 100 years after the Army's first black officers' training program debuted in Iowa, dozens of old photographs have been discovered showing what life was like when Fort Des Moines was gearing up for World War I. 

The country's oldest African American fraternity returned to its early roots this month when the Fort Des Moines Museum welcomed members of Alpha Phi Alpha in remembering their brothers from generations ago. In 1917, the national fraternity helped recruit black college students to become officers, and a racial barrier was broken. 

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Low electric rates in Iowa are being touted by none other than billionaire Warren Buffett, whose company owns MidAmerican Energy. Rick Fredericksen has the story.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa's most exotic hospital is open for business in Des Moines and visitors will soon be able to watch surgeries and other procedures from a special viewing area. The story from Iowa Public Radio's Rick Fredericksen.

This sparking new facility resembles most any modern medical center; from the surgical suite to the laboratory and pharmacy. One big difference: this hospital is equipped with a tranquilizer gun and a shotgun cabinet just in case a patient goes rogue. Welcome to Blank Park Zoo, where Dr. June Olds is senior veterinarian.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

The State of Iowa will be touting a new living arrangement for retirement communities when the Governor's Conference on Aging meets in Des Moines this May. It centers on a 21 year old college student who moved into an Urbandale senior living residence this winter. 

Music major Haley Jenkins moved into her new apartment at the Deerfield Retirement Community in early January. She gets free accommodations in exchange for regular live performances. A typical neighbor could be four times her age. Lisa Ryan is with Deerfield's parent company, Lifespace Communities.

Courtesy Will Thomson

An Iowa City designer, who specializes in museum exhibits, is putting the final touches on his latest creation: a realistic portrayal of trench warfare during World War One. It's at the Gold Star Museum in Johnston.

There are no more living veterans of World War One, but just in time for the 99th anniversary of America's involvement, Iowans will soon be able to experience what combat was like in the safety of a museum. Will Thomson teaches exhibit design at the University of Iowa.

Iowa Air National Guard

An old F-100 jet fighter has been saved from the graveyard for old military aircraft and will soon be on display at the Air National Guard Headquarters in Maryland. The preservation was a homecoming for a team of specialists in Sioux City.

For 15 years, the Iowa Air National Guard Paint Facility has quietly been spray painting aircraft. It's not your neighborhood body shop; it's the only one like this in the nation according to Colonel Larry Christensen, commander of the 185th Air Refueling Wing.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

As Iowans ponder their favorite candidate in the nation's first test of presidential contenders, a curious collection of political memorabilia is being assembled in Des Moines. The goal is to preserve the history of Iowa’s caucuses. 

For 44 years, more than 100 presidential hopefuls have tried to win the Iowa caucuses; their story is being amassed by curator Hope Grebner.

"We are actually inside the climate controlled storage area at the Drake University archives in Cowles Library."

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Three Iowans have died from influenza this season, but the overall activity involving flu-like illness remains light. The mild weather may be a contributing factor, according to Patricia Quinlisk at the Department of Public Health.

"We've had flu around Iowa for about a month, a month and a half now, we've certainly had people hospitalized, but it’s been staying at a pretty low level, probably part of that is we've just been so warm. We know that the flu really likes cold weather."

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa's network of highway rest areas is more popular than ever, but in recent years the comfort stops have taken on the look and feel of truck stops. It's a symptom of a worsening problem that is getting new attention. 

Vacationing families and long distance travelers have enjoyed the convenience of rest stops for 50 years. Iowa now has 38, fully-equipped with bathrooms, vending machines and picnic areas. During certain hours of the day they're crowded with many more 18-wheelers than cars. Dennis Mabie is a rest area manager for the Department of Transportation.

John Pemble / Terrace Hill

Plans are underway to recover a part of Iowa's lost history buried next to the governor’s mansion in Des Moines, known as Terrace Hill. Administrators are preparing to exhume the old swimming pool which was built long before Iowa's first families moved in. 

Several thousand visitors tour the Victorian mansion every year. Among the sightseers this fall was a group of students from Runnells, with a volunteer guide pointing out the highlights.

"Okay, this is the moose. We call him Fred. Now that’s a big moose isn't it?"

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

A long courtship between the state of Iowa and the southeast European country of Kosovo is about to become formal; the two governments are preparing to tie the diplomatic knot with the opening of the first foreign consulate in Iowa. 

Iowa is becoming part of Kosovo's modern history after years of conflict following the breakup of Yugoslavia. Kosovo's struggle for independence hit bottom in 1999, and NATO forces intervened on behalf of those who wanted autonomy from Yugoslavia. The struggle was given widespread news coverage.

Paul Starnes

All his life, Steven Starnes, who lives in northern Iowa, was told to stay away from his father’s collection of old audio tapes. After being boxed up for two generations, the recordings have been brought back to life unlocking a love affair that goes back to the Vietnam War.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Within two years, the historic Veterans Administration campus in Knoxville will be vacant for the first time since President Hoover created the VA 75 years ago. Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen reports.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa National Guard has based helicopters in Boone since 1954. Today, that city is home for the state's only assault helicopter unit. But now, Boone faces the possibility of losing its decorated aviation wing. As Iowa Public Radio's Rick Fredericksen reports, residents are fighting to keep their Black Hawk helicopters.

Boone is foremost a railroad town and known as the birthplace of Mamie Eisenhower. It also has a key role in national security, with some 500 soldiers and aviation personnel based at the Boone Armory.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Among other things, the Iowa State Fair is identified with its buildings: from the enormous Grandstand to the dignified Pioneer Hall. Officials have launched a campaign to restore one of the fair's most unlikely architectural treasurers: the Sheep Barn. Iowa Public Radio's Rick Fredericksen has the story.

The brick barn dates back to 1915 and hundreds of thousands of curious fairgoers, if not millions, have walked through the sprawling shelter to gawk, some of them with video cameras rolling.

City of Woolstock

  A new distinction for an Iowan best known as Superman; a town sign now proclaims Woolstock as the birthplace of actor George Reeves. The story from Rick Fredericksen. 

A renovated town sign now displays a photo of George Reeves and honors him as a humanitarian, veteran and actor.  In the 1950s, he was the original TV Superman but appeared in more than 40 movies. Reeves historian Veronica Guyader says he was always concerned about being stereotyped.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

An Iowa man grew up playing in one of the coolest hide-outs around: an old-fashioned, vacant grain elevator. Today, he is restoring it as a tribute to early American agriculture. Phase one has been completed and Iowa Public Radio's Rick Fredericksen was there for the dramatic finish. 


We continue our job series with a comeback story; the revival of an industry lost long ago, and how one Iowa company is making it work all over again. The story from Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen.

It was the original form of mass transit in cities and towns across America. In 1944, the musical Meet Me in St. Louis celebrated the trolley car era when commuters climbed aboard electric street cars.