A contingent of Marines march along Jackson Street during the Brooklyn Flag Festival Parade on Saturday, June 11. The dedication of the life-size bronze statue to Harold "Pie" Keller followed that parade at the Avenue of Flags
By J.O. Parker
Brooklyn features the Avenue of Flags and sports the boyhood home and monument to Hollywood movie star John Wayne. There is the restored Brooklyn Opera House and also the William Manatt House, which today houses the town historical museum. Manatt is one of the founding fathers of Brooklyn.
And now, Brooklyn is home to the Harold “Pie” Keller Memorial located at the Avenue of Flags on Jackson Street.
“Pie,” as he was called, was a life-long Brooklyn resident and 1939 graduate of Brooklyn High School. He was one of six Marines who made the trek up Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945 during the Battle of Iwo Jima and planted the American Flag at the peak. The iconic photo taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, which was actually of the second flag raising, became one of the most famous images of the war.
An estimated 800 – 1,000 people from all across the Midwest and as far away as New Mexico, Arizona, Pennsylvania and South Carolina came to Brooklyn to pay tribute to “Pie,” and to take part in the unveiling and dedication of the life-size bronze statue in his honor.
“Our family feels so overwhelmed and honored at what the Brooklyn Community did to honor our father,” said Kay Maurer, the daughter of “Pie,” who resides in Clarence, Iowa. ”I was overwhelmed by how many people showed up for the unveiling and the parade. The whole day, I was just in amazement. The statue is just amazing and is just perfect.”
“The town of Brooklyn and all the people who organized and participated in the unveiling and the parade did an outstanding job,” added “Pie” Keller’s son, Wayne, who resides in Crystal Lake, Ill.
The monument came about thanks in part to Brent Westemeyer, an amateur historian from Johnson, Iowa who spent more than a half dozen years researching photos, reading historical books and accounts of Iwo Jima and pouring over a Bill Genaust’s film from the battle of Iwo Jima to correctly identify “Pie.”
The discovery came 74 years after the iconic photo was taken when in October 2019 the Marines announced that the number two man was actually Harold “Pie” Keller.
The Marine in the number two position was originally identified as Pfc. Rene A. Gagnon. According to Westemeyer, Pfc. Gagnon contributed to the flag raising, but wasn’t actually pictured.
Cpl. Harold “Pie” Keller served in the Marine Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division.
In less than three short years, the Brooklyn Community came together, formed a committee, raised funds, had the monument built and created in “Pie’s” honor.
It was a day that most will never forget - the parade, the dedication and unveiling, the music and pageantry and the local and national military presence on hand.
“A lot of people put in a lot of volunteer hours to make this happen,” said Rusty Clayton, a former business owner and member of the “Pie” Keller Memorial Committee. “I really thought it was super that we had three world War II veterans there - Dale Watts, Montezuma; Stan Walford, Brooklyn; and Dwight George, Grinnell.”
Also remembered were three other Brooklyn Veterans who served at Iwo Jima. They are Don Ent, a Navy Corpsman; Robert “Bob” Dappen, Lt. US Navy; and Byard Braley, Cpl. USMC. Members of the Braley and Ent families were present and took part in the unveiling and dedication. Lt. Dappen was also recognized, but no family members were present.
“I’m thankful for everyone who had a hand in Saturday’s events in Brooklyn for the flag festival,” said Jessie Lacaeyse of Brooklyn. “The parade with lots of entries. The Harold “Pie” Keller memorial….Wow! is all I can say. What a great historical event to witness. We enjoyed the food trucks and activities after the dedication, too.”
Franci Kuntz McClenathan, a great niece of “Pie,” said her family will always remember this Flag Festival as one of the best.
“To have my great uncle, Pie Keller, honored with a statue for his part in the flag raising at Iwo Jima is simply amazing,” McClenathan said. “Little did a humble man from the small town of Brooklyn, serving his country as a Marine, know how big of an impact he would someday make on our community. A huge thank you to everyone who made this day possible.”
“I thought it was great,” said Tom Ryan, a member of the Brooklyn American Legion. “Glad it all came together. Glad there were so many people here.”
“A very nice memorial to “Pie,” said Uwe Meyer, a veteran from Montezuma. “It’s nice to have a local boy do good.”
“That (the Keller dedication) was one of two things that I was honored to be a part of as a veteran,” said Ron Hensel, commander of the Montezuma American Legion Post 196. “The first one was the burial of Seaman First Class Wesley Jordan, the man from Barnes City who went down with the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He was buried on May 24, 2019. And the second one was the dedication of the Harold “Pie” Keller Memorial.”
Former Iowa Senator Tim Kapucian of Keystone, who was present at the memorial dedication and luncheon, said years ago the City of Brooklyn built the Avenue of Flags display featuring 63 flags and a large American flag on an 80-foot pole.
“How iconic it is that today they found out that they are closely tied to one of the most iconic flag raisings in American history.”
“Brooklyn, Iowa appreciates its veterans,” said former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who rode in the parade and gave a brief speech at the luncheon.
Following the war, “Pie” worked in the town creamery and later sold Surge milking equipment after the creamery closed. He spent 25 years volunteering with the Brooklyn Fire Department, including a stint as chief. He also served as the president of the athletic boosters and coached youth baseball for years.
Also present at the dedication was son, Wayne, his wife, Therese, and their three daughters and husbands along with their eight grandsons.
“My grandsons got to ride in the parade and got to raise the Marine flag at the unveiling,” noted Keller. “It is something that they will never forget.”
Joining Kay was her husband, Steve, and a son and his wife and three grandchildren, who all took part in the parade.
Also present was Judy Keller, wife of the late Ken Keller, “Pie’s” first born son who died in 2015.
“I am so appreciative of what the town has done,” added Keller. “When Brooklyn puts their mind to something, they get it done. If my mom and dad were living, they would have been so appreciative but they would have been embarrassed by all the attention.”
“The way the town of Brooklyn supported this project just warms my heart,” said Kay.