Special surprise to recognize Jo Lawson

Coast Guard SPARS receives a surprised honoring this Veterans Day

Aledo, Ill. - Aledo residents gathered to recognize the service of those in the armed forces on this Veterans Day.

The ceremony paid special attention to women veterans, unveiling a new statue in their Armed Forces Memorial Park.

The park has been a six-year project, with the community raised the money for the female soldier in a little more than two weeks.

Aledo Police Department Lt. Nick Seefeld said, "I don't think the women have gotten the recognition or the honor that they deserve for being in the armed forces, and this is a real daily reminder that not only are there men serving but there's women out there putting their life on the line for our freedom too."

To make the ceremony more impactful, Lieutenant Seefeld used this Veterans Day to honor one local woman for her service. 

His plan included help from a high school senior who gathered information about the 95-year-old's life.

Alice "Jo" Lawson has a front row seat to the Veterans Day ceremony in Aledo.

U.S. Army Colonel Michelle Ryan said, "Given all that Jo has done for the community, it was a great way for the community to get together."

Surrounded by her family who came from all over the country joining the city, knowing a secret.

Mercer County High School Senior Brynn Bergen said, "See that all of her work had paid off and people recognizing it."

And keeping the wool over her eyes until just the right time.

U.S. Coast Guard SPARS Alice J. Lawson "Oh, this can't be. I was so surprised. I just couldn't."

This Veterans Day service paying special respect to women who serve, was months of behind the scenes work to honor Lawson who served and touched countless lives in this community.

As World War II was coming to a close, Lawson enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard SPARS, a women's reservist unit.

Lawson said, "I thought that was an adventure and it was."

She would spend two years with the Coast Guard, working at a Navy Air Station Operations Office.

Following that time, she'd continue living a life of adventure.

"Some people go out and play golf or play tennis or whatever, and I went out to the little airport and learn how to fly," said Lawson.

It would be a few years later before returning to her hometown of Aledo.

Eventually getting married and having a family, but she had the most significant impact in her seventh-grade social studies classroom, going on to help shape other women who serve.

"A remarkably positive energy," Col. Ryan. "Whatever life throws at her, she hits it head on and does it with a smile on her face."

And while short in stature, her influence looms large. 

"I wasn't just there to teach the capitals of every state and what was in the book." Lawson said, "I was there to teach them to be good citizens and all that jazz."

Lawson has also been involved with the Mercer County Mental Health Board and an organizer for the food shelf.

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