Four local artists, all of whom have ties to the U.S. military, have designed a challenge coin that will play a key role in the upcoming mast stepping ceremony for the USS Beloit to be held in Marinette on Saturday.

A mast stepping ceremony, part of the christening of the new naval vessel, involves presenting the coins, which will be welded onto the ship’s mast. The four local artists designed the coin for the city of Beloit.

One of the coin designers, Miguel Angel Olivera, is a senior at Beloit Memorial High School and already has enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He is scheduled to attend boot camp July 11.

“It’s an honor to represent the people of Beloit on the coin,” Olivera said. “I worked with my team to make sure our city is represented.”

Abigail (Bea) Champeny-Johns is a sophomore at Beloit College and a Beloit Memorial alumna.

Champeny-Johns’ family is filled with veterans—22 of them, to be exact—who have served in the U.S. Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force, including her mother, who served in the Navy.

Aaron Nilson, another member of the coin design team, is a local business owner who joined the U.S. Navy right after graduating from high school. He served on the USS Peterson and USS Cape St. George.

Last but, not least, Tom West served in the Vietnam War and received three Purple Hearts.

All four theam members brought unique ideas to the project and design.

One side of the coin showcases an engine with a man’s face, the phrase “LCS 29” and an anchor. The other side showcases a river with a dam, lighthouse and the state of Wisconsin in the background.

One side of the coin includes the words “USS BELOIT” and “CITY OF BELOIT,” while the other side includes the words “FAIRBANKS MORSE DEFENSE” and “USS BELOIT.”

“I drew the engine and face on the front of the coin,” West said. “Aaron and Miguel helped come up with the idea for the man’s face on the coin.”

“I drew the anchor on the side with the engine,” Nilson said.

“Bea and I came up with the idea of bringing Riverside Park to the coin with its landmarks,” Olivera said. “She was the one who drew the design for that side of the coin.”

“Mark Finnegan (president of VetsRoll) approached me for the project,” West said. “Then we got started the following Thursday.”

“My mom, after hearing about it from my old instructor at Beloit (Memorial High School), thought I would be a good fit for the team,” Champeny-Johns said.

Olivera heard about the opportunity through staff at Beloit Memorial High School. Nilson was asked to join the team by the city of Beloit.

The team met on a Thursday and presented its design the following Monday.

“I remember it being a quick turnaround and once asked, we quickly began brainstorming” West said.

“When I heard of the USS Beloit, I was asking ‘Which Beloit? Is there another Beloit they are talking about?’” Olvera said. “I was in shock that a ship was being named after our city.”


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