Milwaukee County War Memorial

Donor Spotlight: Gary Grunau

Gary Grunau

This month we recognize long time former War Memorial Center board member, Gary Grunau. Gary is one of Milwaukee’s most prominent business and civic leaders. As a real estate developer, his fingerprints are on almost every block of downtown Milwaukee from Schlitz Park to the Riverwalk.

Here at the War Memorial Center, he was the driving force behind our 9/11 Memorial. It was Gary who heard about the effort to distribute pieces of steel from the twin towers to locations across the country for public memorials. He then funded the project by donating the prize money received from getting the 2011 Frank Kirkpatrick Award (honoring individuals whose efforts have brought physical improvements to the community). Now, every Sept. 11 at 7:30 a.m., people gather in Veterans Courtyard for a moving service centered around that memorial.

Gary has always had a deep desire for service. While in college at Cornell University in the 1960s, Gary joined ROTC. However, after failing the eyesight test he was told that he would never be able to serve in the military.

Instead, he has made it his mission to make sure the Milwaukee community never forgets its history.

“History is good. You have to learn from it,” Gary reflects. “You cannot visit the War Memorial Center and not come away with pride in your community, pride in your country and just wanting to thank someone for all that we’ve been given.”

Gary says the memorials within the WMC, evoke for him a similar emotional response as visiting war memorials in Washington, DC.

“You have to see the memorials and hear the stories,” Gary said. “This is the foundation of our country. To take care of one another and defend the ideals of liberty and justice for all. That’s what preserving the WMC means to me.”

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