Perry icon Jim Haas was announced Thursday as 25th honoree chosen for the Wall of Witnesses in Soumas Court. A bas relief of Haas will be executed in the coming months by Newton artist Rick Stewart and will be unveiled in a public ceremony.
Hometown Heritage President Bill Clark and Perry Historic Preservation Commission President Connie McGuire made the announcement while standing in front of the Wall of Witnesses in the company of Marty Haas of Johnston, the son of Jim Haas, and Perry Historic Preservation Commissioners Gene Peel and Joe McCarty.
James Richard Haas was born Jan. 10, 1922, in Perry, and he died Nov. 11, 2017, in Perry.
He graduated from Perry High School in 1940, where he was a member of the 1936 state championship football team from Perry. His college career at the University of Iowa was interrupted when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, serving as a bombardier from 1942 to 1945.
Jim flew 36 missions over Europe and received the Purple Heart after being critically wounded. He also was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Victory Medal, Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters and the European Theatre Award.
Jim married Diana Foster in 1945, and they returned to Perry after the war, raising daughter Nancy and son Marty.
Jim worked 40 years as senior vice-president and trust officer at the Perry State Bank, now the Raccoon Valley Bank. He also served as the volunteer treasurer for many local organizations over the years, including the Salvation Army, Perry Library Foundation and the Perry School Board.
In the course of his long public career, Jim served as president of the Perry Chamber of Commerce, Perry Jaycees and Perry Golf and Country Club and was Exalted Ruler of the Elks. He was chosen the Kiwanis Club Business Man of the Year Award and received the Perry Jaycees Distinguished Service Award.
Jim was an elder, trustee and chairman of the board of the First Christian Church.
The name of the Wall of Witnesses derives from a verse in St. Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews that Clark and Perry native and philanthropist Roberta Green Ahmanson were inspired by after they saw a similar wall in Murphys, Calif., called the Wall of Comparative Ovations.
To commemorate the name, Clark and McGuire unveiled Thursday a new plaque on the Wall of Witnesses that quotes the 12th chapter of the book of Hebrews: “. . . so great a cloud of witnesses.” The new plaque further states, “The people of Perry honor and bear witness to those among us who have made a difference. They inspire us.”
Since resuming additions to the Soumas Court’s collection of notable figures from Perry history, the partnership has honored Mike Kanealy in 2016, Charles Joy in 2016, Jim Walstrom in 2017 and Dallas “Pete” VanKirk in 2018.
According to the commission’s call for nominations, “The Wall of Witnesses recognizes those who have gone before us and stand as witnesses to our care of the community and those who set the course both in the present and in the future.”
The bas reliefs are made possible through the ongoing support of Hometown Heritage, the Dallas County Foundation, the Perry Historic Preservation Commission and the Perry Chamber of Commerce.