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Dale Gardner Veterans Memorial Bridge plaque unveiled

Clinton Herald - 6/19/2018

June 18--SAVANNA, Ill. -- State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, joined Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, former NASA astronaut Capt. Daniel Brandenstein, former NASA astronaut Brigadier Gen. Robert Stewart, as well as numerous members of Capt. Dale Gardner's family for the dedication of the Dale Gardner Veterans Memorial Bridge and plaque unveiling.

"What an exciting day for the city of Savanna, its neighbors across the Mississippi -- Sabula -- and the thousands of drivers who will use this bridge every day," Rauner said Sunday. "The Dale Gardner Veterans Memorial Bridge is more than a transportation structure, it is a tribute to all of our men and women who have served, including astronaut Dale Gardner. This bridge will ensure that Dale's life and his amazing accomplishments will forever be remembered."

House Joint Resolution 58 designated the Savanna-Sabula Bridge as the "Dale Gardner Veterans Memorial Bridge." It was sponsored by McCombie in the Illinois House and Sen. Neil Anderson in the State Senate and was unanimously adopted by both houses in the Illinois General Assembly. The plaque was unveiled Sunday.

"Growing up in Savanna, my Mom would often reminisce about her classmates, but always had a special place for her friend, the astronaut Dale Gardner," she said. "She was so proud of him and because of her memories, I felt like I knew him too. Today, after meeting so many of his family members, I know that he was a special person and left a positive mark on everyone he met. It was truly an honor to be asked by Dave Engaldo and the Savanna High School Class of 1966 to carry HJR 58. The amount of work and dedication it took to naming and celebrating our beautiful bridge spanning the Mississippi is truly amazing. The Dale Gardner Veterans Memorial Bridge is a wonderful tribute to all of the veterans that serve our country and give us our freedom. "

Gardner was the valedictorian of Savanna Community High School class of 1966, and earned a Bachelor of Science and Engineering Degree from the University of Illinois in 1970 with a 5.0 GPA. After graduation he joined the U.S. Navy, where he earned his Naval Flight Wings and rose to the rank of captain. In 1978, NASA selected Gardner to be an astronaut, where he logged 337 hours in space, and orbited the earth 225 times. He earned numerous awards and medals for his service and accomplishments. He died Feb. 19, 2014, at the age of 65.

At the dedication, Brandenstein and Stewart shared their memories of Gardner -- describing to the crowd how unbelievably smart and talented a person he was.

The new Dale Gardner Veterans Memorial Bridge cost $80 million, and replaced the outdated and functionally obsolete 20-foot-wide, half-mile-long Savanna-Sabula Bridge.

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(c)2018 the Clinton Herald (Clinton, Iowa)

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