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'A man who made a difference': Sen. Jerry Relph honored at St. Cloud veterans memorial

St. Cloud Times - 2/17/2021

Feb. 16—ST. CLOUD — Dozens of people gathered to dedicate a memorial bench to U.S. Marine veteran and former state Sen. Jerry Relph, R-St. Cloud, in the bitter cold on Tuesday.

They could have waited for a perfect day, said Mayor Dave Kleis who led the ceremony.

"We instead are here on a difficult day. But we're here," Kleis said. "As Jerry always was where he needed to be."

Relph died two months ago at the age of 76 from COVID-19 and related complications. He represented St. Cloud in the state Senate for four years before his death. And he served as a Marine in the Vietnam War.

"Today we honor a man who made a difference in this world," Kleis said.

Relph's bench is located at the Wilson Park veterans memorial. It is next to the memorial's first bench purchased by Kleis last year in honor of two of his brothers, Mathias and Thomas Kleis, who were also Marines.

Multiple people pitched in for Relph's memorial bench, Kleis said.

Marine veterans shared a prayer and a song during Tuesday ceremony. And the Metro Vets posted the colors and gave Relph a rifle salute.

"It's hard to serve a community that's going through difficult times: division, pandemic, financial and emotional challenges. These are times that test all of us, including those we count on to serve us," Kleis said. "Jerry wasn't immune to those struggles. But he, the Marine, always faithful, continued to meet those challenges head on. Dedication to others is what drove and defined him."

Relph's wife Pegi Broker-Relph told the crowd that he had wished to be cremated and taken to an island on Lake Huron. The bench provides a memorial site closer to home.

Relph used to live up the river, Broker-Relph said gesturing to the Mississippi.

"It's just so fitting that he is here," she said. "Jerry is so amazingly pleased. You all know it."

Nora Hertel is the government watchdog reporter for the St. Cloud Times. Reach her at 320-255-8746 or Follow her on Twitter @nghertel.


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