Lynnita's study of Korean War veterans and the Korean War began in 1996. That year, as museum director and
exhibit coordinator, she designed a four-month exhibit in the Douglas County Museum (700 S. Main St., Tuscola,
Illinois) about the Korean War. The exhibit was titled, "The Korean War: Cold, Bloody, and Forgotten." In order
to understand the war that had happened in her lifetime, but that Lynnita knew nothing about at the time, she
began to interview Korean War veterans and Gold Star family members. During the exhibit months, she interviewed
more than 100 Korean War veterans and Gold Star family members in full-length taped interviews. Even though the
exhibit ended in December of 1996, Lynnita continued the interview process with veterans. Her interest in the
Korean War continued to grow with each interview.
In 1997, Lynnita created the concept of a national museum about the Korean War. She wrote the original
proposal for the "Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library," an Illinois-based organization which formed
in late 1997. Over the next three years, she devoted thousands of hours and hundreds of dollars of her own
personal funds to that organization's founding efforts. She was the author, compiler, and typist of the majority
of the text on that organization's website, providing material to Kevin Zimmerman, the website's then webmaster.
Lynnita authored the organization's newsletters for two years. She was a delegate to Korea for the museum group
in 1998. In Korea, she and other museum representatives met with Korean Marines, ROK Veterans Association
officials, and other dignitaries to discuss the museum project, and to seek funding for it Lynnita served on
that organization's site selection committee, wrote its formal case for support, was its registered agent,
served as its principal public speaker, and supervised publicity, mass mailings, and fund-raising efforts. She
was elected as the organization's first National Secretary, serving from
Fall of 1997 through July of 1999. In
that capacity, she kept meeting minutes, handled all correspondence, continued to add information to the
website, responded to written and telephone queries, wrote grant proposals, coordinated preparations for board
meetings, provided refreshments and food for meetings and luncheons, and much, much more. At no time did Lynnita
ever receive a salary, or request or receive money for working on behalf of the Korean War Museum or Korean War
In the summer of 1999, Lynnita had a major disagreement with the board president and trustees of the Korean
War Veterans National Museum and Library. The disagreement was over what Lynnita perceived to be general board
mismanagement. Lynnita was also upset over unprofessional comments that the board president had made about the
organization that found their way to a front-page story in the Chicago Tribune newspaper. The disagreement was
also over the unethical erasure of tape-recorded, unapproved board minutes, and the arbitrary withholding of
board minutes from selected trustees. A museum administrator with over ten years experience in that capacity, Lynnita's opinion of what was (and particularly what was not) ethical conduct on the part of officers and board
members of a public trust greatly differed from that of the board president and certain trustees who condoned
his behavior. This disagreement culminated in a non-advertised meeting held in July of 1999, during which the
board of trustees, under the encouragement of Board President Robert Kenney of Decatur, Illinois, removed
Lynnita as the elected national secretary. Assisting Kenney in this action was an attorney from Champaign
County, Illinois. Coincidentally, the attorney was the sister of a part-time Korean War Museum paid employee.
That part-time employee then immediately took over as appointed national secretary of the Korean War Museum, and
began to receive thousands of dollars in salary money once Lynnita's removal had been orchestrated. Her last
known annual salary (2005) for doing the work that Lynnita did for free for veterans was $29,187. The year 1999 was Lynnita’s last involvement in the Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library. Since
that time the group has solicited and spent millions of dollars, but still has not achieved its original goal to
establish a permanent museum for Korean War veterans. It has moved numerous times and was taken to federal court
in 2008 for alleged non-payment of bills associated with a professional fund-raising firm.
Firmly believing in the preservation of Korean War veterans' memoirs, Lynnita became an independent
interviewer in 1999, traveling throughout the United States at her own expense to document Korean War memoirs of
veterans, their wives, and Gold Star family members. In addition to conducting the interviews, Lynnita was (and
is) a frequent guest speaker on the subject of Korean War veterans. Her presentations are based on the memoirs
of the Korean War veterans and Gold Star family members she has interviewed.
In October of 2000, Lynnita established the Korean War Educator Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation in
the State of Illinois. When she became the CEO of the new foundation/public trust, her independent work ceased.
All of her Korean War work is now conducted under the auspices of the Korean War Educator Foundation, a
federally-tax exempt non-profit. She continues to receive no salary for her work on behalf of Korean War
veterans. Further information about the Foundation can be found elsewhere on this website.
Lynnita is opinionated about the Korean War, and is an advocate for the rights of Korean War veterans and
veterans in general. She has outspoken, negative opinions about those who cause harm to Korean War veterans. She
continues to be non-supportive of the so-called Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library. Lynnita
is also non-supportive of immediate past and present administrations of the Korean War Veterans Association, Inc. She
believes that the leadership of both organizations has been detrimental to Korean War veterans.
The daughter of Florin (Buck) and Norma Jean Geery Aldridge, Lynnita Jean Aldridge was born November 1, 1950,
in a house in Schuyler County, Downing, Missouri. She moved with her parents to Tuscola, Illinois, in
1954. From 1967 to 1996, her parents owned and operated Aldridge Jewelry Store in Tuscola. Her father, who was
an antique clock collector, jeweler, and self-taught watch repairman, died in the store of a heart attack in
1988. He was a peacetime veteran, having served 1½ stints in the U.S. Army after World War II and before the Korean
War broke out. Mrs. Aldridge died in January 2017. Lynnita has three sisters Florenna Sue, Dennarda Kay, and Alonna Gail.
Sue died in 2013.
Lynnita graduated from Tuscola High School in 1968. She received an Associate of Arts degree from Parkland
Community College in Champaign. She then received a bachelor's degree (cum laude) and master's degree in
modern American history from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois in 1986 and 1988, respectively.
She paid her own way through junior college and undergraduate school by working as a waitress and by working as
a detasseling/roguing crew boss for Dekalb Seed Company during the summer. She also mowed lawns, raked leaves,
walked beans, wrote free lance feature stories for area newspapers, was a waitress, did housecleaning jobs,
painted houses, and did other odd jobs to earn her college money and help pay the household bills. At the
same time, she was the foster parent to over three dozen foster children, particularly specializing in the more
Her graduate work at Eastern Illinois University was paid when she was awarded the history department's
highest honor, the EIU Coleman Scholarship. She then transferred to the University of Illinois PHD program
in history, and worked in the university's World Heritage Museum in the college work study program while
attending classes. She was the personal assistant to the museum director, Barbara Bohen.
She had completed all but one course in the PhD program at the
University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois, by March of 1991. At that
time, and at the age of 40, Lynnita found out that she was four months pregnant with her first and
only child. Due to extended ill health before and after the birth of her daughter, Lynnita did not
complete her PhD.
When she began her work with Korean War veterans, Lynnita was then known as Lynnita Jean Sommer. On Labor
Day, September 3, 2001, Lynnita married Dale Holmes Brown of Waterville, Maine, in Urbana, Illinois. Dale was a
master electrician in Maine and New Hampshire, and a licensed journeyman electrician in the rest of the New
England states until he retired in 1998. He was a C-1-7 combat Marine in Korea in 1951-52 who fought on Hill 673
with his fellow Marines.
The Browns live in Tuscola. Lynnita was the part-time director of the Douglas County Museum in Tuscola
from 1987 through August 2012. In objection to what she considered
to be inappropriate conduct and bad decisions on the part of various
trustees, Lynnita resigned her position in 2012 and dropped her
membership in the organization she had co-founded back in 1984. The Douglas County Museum is a
small local history museum that became a national award-winning facility
under Lynnita's guidance. Lynnita is one of the three original founders
of the Museum Association of Douglas County, the parent organization
that owns the Douglas County Museum. As director, Lynnita coordinated
the daily operation of the museum, including exhibit planning and
implementation, public outreach, financial transactions, and more.
She also wrote almost a half million dollars worth of successful
grants for the organization.
Lynnita owns and operates "Aldridge's", a collectibles shop at 131 W. Sale Street in Tuscola.
Aldridge's is a retail business (regular hours 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) that sells new and
used children's toys, collectibles, and gifts. The store telephone number is 217-253-5171. Lynnita is usually at the store on Wednesday
in the summer and through Christmas, and you are always welcome to call her there. Until 2010, Lynnita was
also a waitress from time to time. She had waitressed on and off since she was 17 years old.
Lynnita also does extensive genealogy research on her family tree: the descendents of William and Catherine Houts Geery of Madison County, Kentucky, who migrated to northeast Missouri, the descendents of Abner and Nancy
Aldridge of Lincoln County, Kentucky, who migrated to northeast Missouri,
and the Blaine/Stice families of Northeast Missouri.
Today Lynnita not only operates Aldridge's, she also is the Tuscola
site supervisor for the PeaceMeal Senior Nutrition Program
provided by Sarah Bush Lincoln Hospital in Mattoon, Illinois. The
Tuscola site is located in the Tuscola Senior Citizens Center next door
to Lynnita's store. She is at PeaceMeal from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
five days a week.
With a store full of collectibles, one question that is often asked
of Lynnita is whether she collects anything for herself and not the
store. The answer is yes! Lynnita has a personal interest in
children's items associated with all wars in which the USA was involved.
She collects everything from children's military tour jackets and
uniforms to war-related toys and children's books.
More about Lynnita
Activities and Honors (college/university)
Eastern Illinois University: Phi Alpha Theta, national history honor society; Tassels (Mortarboard) honor
society; Kappa Delta Pi national educational honor society; Livingston C. Lord nominee (highest university
honor); Ardath Louise Fogelsanger history scholarship recipient; Coleman Scholarship recipient (highest
history department honor - paid Master's Degree full tuition and stipend); Social Science Writing Award -
first place, 1985 (Anti-Semitism Under Hitler 1933-1939) and second place 1986 (Minorities in Inter-war
Poland). Parkland Community College: Alpha Omega scholastic honor society; contributor (peer-chosen) to Images
'82, a publication of student writing, art and photography. University of Illinois: College Work Study
Program, World Heritage Museum.
Activities and Honors (non-collegiate) (non-Korean War)
Co-founder, past president, member, and past museum director for
the Museum Association of Douglas County; charter member and past
president, Douglas County Genealogical Society; past member, Board
of Directors, Illinois State Genealogical Society.
Collector of Douglas County, Illinois history and memorabilia. Collection includes over 6,000 photographs
of scenes and people in the history of the county. Presenter of slide shows relating to these photographs.
Past public speaker and grant writer for the Douglas County Museum. Paper presenter at Illinois History Symposium,
1991. Recipient, 1993 Tuscolian of the Year award for community volunteerism. Guest speaker, national
convention, American Association for State and Local History, 1996, Nashville, TN. Guest speaker, Illinois
History Teacher's Conference, 1999, Charleston, IL. State certified, Food Service Sanitation. Past surrogate
parent, Illinois State Board of Education. Past regular and specialized foster parent (for some 3 dozen
children over a 10 year time span), Catholic Social Service and Department of Children and Family Services in
Illinois. Past co-chair of Tuscola Christmas Bureau. Past 4-H and Girl Scout leader. Organizer of the Tuscola
Community Halloween Party for 15 years. Past secretary of the First Baptist Church, Tuscola.
member, Illinois Heritage Association (a museum consultant non-profit agency).
Activities and honors (Korean War-related)
Independent researcher (1999-2001), Korean War veterans (all branches) and Gold Star family members. Has
conducted over 500 interviews with Korean War veterans in 3-9 hour in-person and/or online sessions
(interviews continue). Recipient of plaques of appreciation from the Imjin Chapter of the Korean War Veterans
Association (1997) and the Charles Parlier Chapter of the KWVA (1997). Founder, Korean War Veterans National
Museum and Library (1997) and museum delegate to Korea, September 27-October 4, 1998. Founder and Chief
Executive Officer, Korean War Educator Foundation. Text editor and assistant webmaster, the Korean War
Educator website. Past associate member, Korean War Veterans Association. Honorary member of Dog
Guest speaker (topic - Korean War): VFW District 17, Mattoon, IL; Tuscola Kiwanis Club; American Legion,
Mattoon; 84th/62nd Engineer Construction Battalion reunion, Kissimmee, FL; Moultrie County Historical and
Genealogical Society, Sullivan, IL; Retired Mail Carrier's Convention, Effingham, IL; Missouri Korean War
Veterans Association Council, Columbia, MO; national convention, Korean War Veterans Association, Tyson's
Corner, VA; Tuscola Memorial Day service, Tuscola; Nebraska Korean War Veterans Reunion, Grand Island, NE;
Chapter 2, Korean War Veterans Association, Independence, MO; 44th Combat Engineer Construction Battalion
Association reunion, Tuscola; Missouri Korean War Veterans Rendezvous, Lake of the Ozarks, MO; Charles Parlier
Chapter, KWVA, Decatur, IL; Atwood Lions Club, Atwood, IL; Piatt County Historical and Genealogical Society;
Arthur Business & Professional Women's Club, Arthur, IL; H-3-5 Marine reunion, Indianapolis, IN; Missouri
Korean War Veterans Rendezvous, Branson, MO; Tuscola Woman's Club, Tuscola; Coles County Historical Society,
annual banquet, Mattoon, IL; 728th Military Police Battalion reunion, Tuscola; H-3-7 reunion, Branson, MO; USS
Consolation reunion, Bloomington, MN; West Chicago Museum and Library, West Chicago, IL; Champaign, IL
Kiwanis, Club; Champaign AMBUCs; Village of Bartlett, Illinois; Niles, Illinois Public Library;
USS Silversides Submarine Museum, Muskegon, Michigan; and the
Windsor of Savoy (Illinois) retirement facility.
Publications (non-Korean War)
Editor, Douglas County Museum newsletter, 1984-2012. Past editor, Douglas County Genealogical Society
newsletter. Technical insert in Illinois Heritage Association newsletter. Author, "Illinois Farmers in Revolt:
The Corn Belt Liberty League," Illinois Historical Journal, Vol. 88, No. 4, Winter 1995. Author, "The
Corn Belt Liberty League Takes A Stand Against Government," Illinois History Teacher, Vol. 3, No. 1,
1996. Numerous history features for the Tuscola Journal, Tuscola Review, Newman Independent,
and Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette newspapers. Author of three family genealogy books.
If you have questions, please e-mail Lynnita
or call her at home 217-253-4620 to leave a message. The best time to
reach Lynnita by phone is late afternoon or anytime during the evening. The
number for Aldridge Gifts is 217-253-5171. Lynnita can usually be found there Thursday through
Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m., and many times (in the summer) Monday-Wednesday
Please leave a telephone number and Lynnita will call you back. Please do try calling her at Aldridge's
in the daytime during store hours or at her home in the evening. Your calls are important and welcome to
her. If Lynnita doesn't call you back within 24 hours, your message did not reach her.