Citizens catch glimpse of WWII memorial

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer November 02, 2012 03:10 pm

Area residents gather at the corner of Fourth Street and Adams Avenue Wednesday for a preview of the World War II memorial to be built in Salem next spring. The truck hauling the memorialís granite walls from Pennsylvania made several stops along the Interstate 84 corridor, including La Grande. CHRIS BAXTER - The Observer
Area residents gather at the corner of Fourth Street and Adams Avenue Wednesday for a preview of the World War II memorial to be built in Salem next spring. The truck hauling the memorialís granite walls from Pennsylvania made several stops along the Interstate 84 corridor, including La Grande. CHRIS BAXTER - The Observer

Residents in cities all along the Interstate 84 corridor — including La Grande — were treated to a preview this week of the World War II veterans memorial to be built in Salem next spring.

Members of the Oregon World War II Memorial Foundation accompanied a semi-truck from Pennsylvania carrying granite walls that will bear the names of the 3,757 Oregonians who died in the global conflict. Wednesday, the truck stopped along Adams Avenue outside  Cook Memorial Library. 

Tim Brownleewe, a foundation member and the president of Oregon Memorials in Hillsboro, was among a group showing off the walls to local residents. Brownleewe, whose company will coordinate the memorial’s construction, said he got involved with the project because he believes the “greatest generation” that fought in World War II deserves special recognition.

“Oregon is one of seven states that does not have a statewide memorial,” Brownleewe said. “This is long overdue. Across the nation, we’re losing 1,000 World War II veterans every day.”

Brownleewe said fundraising for the project got under way about six months ago and is about 15 percent complete. He said the foundation is proud of the fact that the entire cost of the $1.2 million memorial will be borne by private citizens.

“We’re working with foundations and citizens, and we’re getting gifts anywhere from $25 to $25,000. Our goal is to have all the money raised by March, so construction can start in late spring.” He added that plans are to dedicate the monument in a ceremony in June marking the anniversary of D-Day.

Brownleewe said that the monument will include an obelisk 33 feet tall, commemorating the fact that Oregon was the 33rd state admitted to the union. He also said the floor of the 75 x 75 foot mall area beneath the obelisk will feature a world map. 

Theaters of operations and the sites of battles will be marked on the map, and people will be able to explore in an interactive way. Computer codes will be built into the map, and people clicking on them with smart phones will be taken to websites that interpret events.

“This is more than just a piece of granite with names on it. For future generations, there’s a large educational portion to it,” Brownleewe said. He explained that the monument will be built in a way that also honors the factory workers, farmers and health care workers and others who contributed to the war effort on the home front.

Memorial Project Manager Bob Plame, also along on this week’s trip, said he is proud to be involved with the project because his father served in the Pacific during the war.

“It’s a way to honor him,” Plame said. “I think we have to honor our history, who we are as a nation and state, and what people did to get us where we are today.”

On the walls being transported this week, some veterans’ names had already been printed, though there are many more yet to be inscribed.

One name displayed was that of Robert Arnoldus, a Union County soldier who served in the Army Air Corps and is said to have been a pilot for President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor. Arnoldus was shot down over the Bay of Bengal.

Wes Faulk, a Union County resident and friend of the Arnoldus family, pointed out the name on the wall and smiled.

“I think it’s cool we’re doing a memorial of this size, and it’s paid for by the people,” he said.

On its journey west, the truck carrying the granite walls made stops in Ontario, Baker City, La Grande, Pendleton, The Dalles and Hood River.

For more information about the memorial or to make a donation, visit www.oregonwwiimemorial.com/index.html.