Military couple celebrates heritage with massive display

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SIDNEY, Ill. (WCIA) — Some people collect coins, bottle caps, or beanie babies…

This military couple in Our Town Sidney collects war artifacts…and they have 10,000 of them!

They use them to teach the history of the military heritage they’re proud of.

This room in the American Legion is covered top to bottom with military memorabilia…spanning decades, several wars, and showcasing countless people.

William Bayard Mclane is the man behind the massive display.

William Bayard Mclane

“We have a long tradition in our family of military service. We have 6 wounded POWs in our family, so it’s important to me to honor our veterans,” said Mclane.

He arranges the pieces of his collection carefully, including rare finds like pieces of the U.S.S. Arizona.

He’s done this so many times, through various school, ROTC, and other presentations…he’s got it down to a science.

“It’s just born in me,” he said. “You know, the family history and I’m really seriously into our family genealogy.”

He says, he can’t do it without his partner in red white and blue, Susan.

“I’ve got a lovely bride of 48 years that has supported me with all this. Putting up with all these things and helping me in and out with stuff, helping me set up displays. That takes a lot.”

“We both served in the navy, so we are often referred to as Mr. and Mrs. Navy. I kinda like that,” said Susan.

Just like Bill, her devotion to this hobby, is devoted to her family…especially her father, who was a prisoner of war.

“He was emotionally, physically, spiritually never the same man again,” said Susan. “He spent more time often at the VA hospital in Danville than he did in our own home in Tolono.”

He’s included as a part of Bill’s mini museum.

She says it’s not just for their own families. They want to help educate as many people as possible about the intricacies and rich stories behind the wars they read about in textbooks.

“It just turns out beautifully, as far as I’m concerned, with placement and telling the story,” said Susan.

It’s a story they hope to share with as many people as will listen, in Our Town Sidney.

Both Bill and Susan have a signer of the Declaration of Independence in their family lines. Susan is also distantly related to George Washington.

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