Price of Freedom Museum to Host Annual D-Day Remembrance on June 8

Published 12:10 am Sunday, June 2, 2024

CHINA GROVE — A new look will greet visitors to the main building at Price of Freedom Museum for the popular D-Day Remembrance on June 8. Volunteers have installed new LED lighting and the hallways have been painted in a lighter tone as they feature the paintings of John Hartley. The hallway, part of the original Patterson Elementary School, also has an elaborate system installed to more uniformly display the paintings that portray various moments in military history. 

While most of Hartley’s oil paintings, about 100 in all, are displayed in the school’s historic hallways, others are in the various classrooms that now honor the individual military services. Hartley worked for Freightliner until his retirement but also is an accomplished carpenter, a gun collector and a drummer in a band.

“I try to touch on all branches of service and enjoy doing this for relaxation and the satisfaction of seeing the completed, historically significant final product,” Hartley said. His paintings are detailed, right down to the lugnuts on a vehicle wheel. One of Hartley’s first paintings was of his dad, Robert Hartley, who served in the 11th Airborne in World War II. 

Hartley says he researches his subjects extensively, then paints mostly at night, figuring from 8 to 20 hours per finished painting.

“People still care about the old stuff and the museum is a wonderful place to display them. I’m trying to keep military memories alive in my way,” he said. 

Hartley will be painting throughout the day of remembrance. 

Museum director Bobby Harrison added, “I remember in June 2012, Robert Hartley approached us about his son’s military paintings. John came the next Sunday and brought 5-6 paintings and we were blown away. Now years later, here we are. The new look to the hallways that properly highlight the paintings was done by Steve Stroud and Jeff McCorkle. Stroud has also provided frames for all of Hartley’s paintings.”

After attending a recent gospel concert at museum, Stroud noted the original dark hallways and the 50-year-old fluorescent bulbs and said, “We have got to do something in here.”

He and McCorkle spent 60-70 hours using a laser level to properly hang the paintings and rustic framing. 

Also available for viewing on June 8 will be a video scrapbook from the many years of the museum, originally the brainchild of Bob Mault. Mault first signed the lease for the building with the Rowan County School System 20 years ago and was able to open the doors to the public two years later. Weapons, uniforms and all types of military memorabilia will be on display. Long-time museum supporter Tom Smith built a display building for his collection of military vehicles and Smith’s family has recently donated the vehicles permanently to the museum. 

Notable vehicles include the MK48 Heavy High Mobility Truck 10×10, designed for the U.S. Marines and able to carry 22.5 tons of cargo. The M38A1D is the rarest of military jeeps as it was built to fire a 57-pound atomic warhead. It was deployed from 1955-1961. The M998, the Humvee, is the military’s replacement for the long serving jeep and was first introduced in 1984. 

Harrison is hopeful of good weather and additional outdoor displays of vehicles on June 8 with some surprises in the works. The opening ceremony will be at 10am while the museum will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Food will be available, including Debbye McIntyre’s Dynamite Dogs. Harrison said, “Come join us for the day and learn the true price of American freedom.”

Admission is free. More information is available at For additional questions or to donate, call Harrison at 704-202-3301. The Price of Freedom Museum is located at 2420 Weaver Road, China Grove.