Cherry Valley Elementary names gym after American war hero

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A local school gym will now bear the name of an American hero who grew up in the community.

Sergeant Leonard Keller was an Army veteran of the Vietnam War who was awarded the Medal Of Honor for his bravery in combat. The Rockford school district’s newest school, Cherry Valley Elementary School, honored the village’s own. School principal Carolyn Timm says dedicating the school’s gym meant a lot to many throughout community.

“We had a lot of signatures, petitions and well-named people who wanted to recognize and honor a really great man,” said Timm.

Sergeant Keller’s daughter Nichole Siccardi says her dad would’ve been humbled by the recognition.

“Born and raised in Cherry Valley,” said Siccardi. “He grew up here, he went to Cherry Valley Elementary. Then he went to Guilford. We grew up in Cherry Valley.”

Siccardi calls the gym dedication a huge honor for their family.

Sergeant Keller’s daughter Jacquiline Mitchell says it wasn’t until they were older they realized the value of their father’s accomplishments.

“I had mentioned it one time in a history class, we were learning about the Vietnam War,” said Jacquiline Mitchell. “I just by chance said ‘Oh, my dad received the Congressional Medal of Honor’ and my teacher and everyone else kind of freaked out.”

The sisters say growing up, to them he was just dad.

“He had a big heart,” said Siccardi. “[He] wanted to make sure everyone that was around him was taken care of before he took care of himself.”

With notes on hand, Cherry Valley Elementary students read what keller’s courage meant to them.

“We’re hoping that as time goes on and our students go past the plaque that we have posted up there, as they enter that gym, they remember what courage means to them,” said Timm.

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