PAOLA — Veterans have always held a special place in the hearts of Cindy and Don Toburen Jr.
Multiple family members, including both of their fathers, served their country in the military, which gives extra special meaning to occasions like Veterans Day.
This year, the Toburens decided to go the extra mile to honor veterans by turning the fence in front of their home on 319th Street south of Paola into a patriotic display.
Don said he removed one row of boards and painted the remaining three red, white and blue with stars to mirror the American flag. He also attached plaques to each side of the fence along their gravel drive entrance.
One plaque honors Don’s father and World War II veteran Donald Toburen, while the other plaque honors Cindy’s father and Korean War veteran Paul Koontz.
Paul joined the Navy after high school and served during the Korean War. While serving on an aircraft carrier, he was injured by a propeller blade and had a large scar around his midsection the rest of his life, Cindy said.
After his service, Paul worked for a truck line company and raised a family. He passed away in his early 80s.
Paul’s younger brother, Ron, also went into the Navy and made a career out of it. He is now retired and lives in New Jersey.
Cindy also has two brothers who went into the service — one with the Navy and the other with the Army. Don also has a brother who served as a Marine, and they both have multiple other extended family members who have served or are serving in the military.
Don Jr.’s father Donald Toburen was drafted into World War II when he was still just a senior in high school. He left for war on Christmas day. He served in Germany and later went into the construction business and raised a family. He passed away in his 90s.
Don Jr. said he has always respected those who have served their country, and this year is extra special to him. On Saturday, Nov. 13, Don and Cindy traveled to Marshall County, where a five-mile stretch of highway between Blue Rapids and Waterville was dedicated in honor of two Waterville soldiers killed during the Vietnam War.
The stretch of highway is now known as Corporal Allen Oatney and Specialist 4 Gene Myers Memorial Highway. Don Jr. said he was friends with Gene in high school, and he remembers seeing him the night before he left for the Vietnam War.
“I said, ‘I’ll see you when you get back,’ and he said, ‘No, I won’t make it back.’ He knew he wasn’t coming home,” Don said.
Cindy also operates a quilting business, Red Barn Quilts, out of their home, and she has been using her talents recently to make military-themed quilts. She is sending one to her uncle Ron in New Jersey.
She said a lot of her business comes from truckers who frequently pass by their home on 319th Street and stop to put in an order for a quilt for a family member. Ever since the patriotic fence was painted, Don and Cindy said truckers and other drivers honk as they pass or even stop to talk with them.
Cindy said she is proud of her husband’s work, especially since it honors their fathers and all veterans.
“He couldn’t have done anything that means more to me,” Cindy said.