Monument honors county worker struck by vehicle

Written by Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer November 19, 2012 01:57 pm

Beloved Union County Public Works employee John E.  Rysdam III is honored with this monument at the start of the 3R  Trail on the Mount Emily Recreation Area.
Beloved Union County Public Works employee John E. Rysdam III is honored with this monument at the start of the 3R Trail on the Mount Emily Recreation Area.

John E. Rysdam III was killed earlier this year while working on a highway project near Palmer Junction Road 

The memory of a Union County public works employee killed in a roadside incident near Elgin last February will live on, thanks to the efforts of co-workers, local businesses and other partners. 

At the Igo Lane trailhead on the Mount Emily Recreation Area stands a stone monument for John E. Rysdam III, who was struck by a vehicle while working with fellow road department employees on a project on Palmer Junction Road. The monument is placed at the start of the 3R Trail, a path on the county-owned MERA named after Rysdam’s Elgin-area ranch.

“We felt very strongly to do this. He is missed,” said county road department employee Joe Valek.

Rysdam was 60 years old and had logged 20 years service to Union County public works on the day he died.  He left behind a wife, Voleny, and three daughters, Keela, Dena and Kasey.

Road Department Supervisor Bob Kelly recalled a day shortly before the incident when he and Rysdam had talked over their respective retirement plans.

“I’d told him that I was going to retire in January, and he said, ‘I think I will retire with you,’” Kelly said.

Kelly said Rysdam was a dedicated, caring employee in the Imbler district who maintained roads and went to extra lengths to keep them clear in winter. 

“He was awesome. He loved his district and took care of it like it was his own,” Kelly said. “He’d worry about the roads and get up weekends when it snowed.”

 

Before his death, Rysdam built the parking area at the Igo Lane trailhead. After he died, Kelly and others approached Union County officials for permission to build the monument and name the trail in Rysdam’s honor. The officials assented, and the community rallied to the cause.

Barreto Manufacturing, Bronson Lumber, Crazy Woman Ranch, Eagle Cap Steel, Eastern Oregon Rental, Fenn’s Towing, RD Mac, Royal Rock,  and Memorial Monuments and Vaults all made contributions toward the project.

County workers prepared the monument site on their own time. In addition, cash donations were made by Steve Almond, Mark Davidson, Richard Krog, Local 701, Rod Osgood and Jennie Tucker.

“Voleny and the family deeply appreciate this,” Kelly said.

Harold “JR” Fruitts of Elgin  is charged with manslaughter in the second degree and criminally negligent homicide in Rysdam’s death. He also faces charges of reckless endangering. The reckless endangering counts allege that Fruits engaged in conduct that created a risk of injury to three other county workers who were on the scene.

Fruitts is free on bail, with a plea hearing set in December.