Merlin Community Park

Veterans Walk of Honor

Josephine County Veterans Walk of Honor History

Josephine County

Veterans Walk of Honor


Written By: Dick Smith & Dianne Gee

The Merlin Park Board, prior to 2004, received many requests from families of veterans to be allowed to plant trees in Merlin Park to commemorate local veterans who had passed. The Merlin Park Board did not want to deny the families permission to plant the trees, yet the Park did not have room to accommodate the many requests they were receiving. The Park Board recommended that a committee be formed to determine a plan of action so that veterans could be remembered and honored.At the November 2004 Merlin Park Board Meeting, Richard (Dick) Smith was appointed as chairman of the new committee.

The Veterans Walk of Honor Committee met for the first time just after November 11, 2004, at Merlin Community Park in Merlin, Oregon. Charter members in attendance were Walt Slater, George Mullen, Richard Smith, Bill Forester, Zack Hinkle, Jerry Brown, Mike Gee, Dianne Gee, and other eager supporters whose names were not captured.

The Concept

The newly formed Committee discussed the existing small memorial in Merlin Park commemorating veterans from Josephine County who had given their lives in defense of our country during World War II.There were a large number of WWII veterans passing away at the time, and the Board was being inundated with requests to plant trees in the park in their memory. The park size and location prohibited the large number of trees requested, so it was necessary to devise a new way to honor those who had passed. In addition, the Committee sought a new way to honor those men and women still alive who had served our country as members of the Armed Services.

Over the next few months, the Committee discussed what kind of memorial would be fitting and how to fund the building of a new memorial. At least six different designs were considered, but none were selected.In July of 2004, George Mullen, a local artist and charter member of the Committee, proposed a unique design of nine granite columns on a solid base of concrete.GeorgeMullen stated that the placement of the columns and the use of an odd number (nine columns) met with architectural traditions.The Committee universally decided that design was esthetically pleasing, fit it with the ambiance of the existing Merlin Park, and also offered the serenity and personal reflection atmosphere which a monument to veterans should provide to the public.

With an approved concept, the Committee then began planning the finer details of the monument—lighting, landscaping, walkways, and a fitting name for this new monument.Committee member, Mike Gee, proposed the name “Veterans Walk of Honor” which would allow the monumentto both honor living veterans as well as memorialize those veterans who had passed.The planning resulted in a budget estimate for construction of $40,000. With a name, a unique architectural design, and a budget, the Committee then went out to the community to raise the funds to build the monument.

Fund Raising

The first contributor interested in helping build the monument was Russ Heater of Prudential Real Estate.He volunteered to donate the printing of the first color brochure to advertise the building of the monument.Dianne Gee and Walt Slater designed the brochure to educate the public about the monument and raise funds to begin construction.With an initial print of 5000 brochures, the Committee was excited to learn that donors were eager to honor their veteran friends and family members through donations which would result in their names engraved on the granite pillars at time of the grand opening and dedication of the new monument.

Carl Wilson of the local KAJO radio station supported the project by providing five commercials a day for five months to support the Committee’s fundraising efforts.The Committee also sought individuals and companies who would desire to contribute greater funds and have their names engraved in a black stone walkway leading to the monument.

By early 2005, the Committee had exceeded their expectations and had raised $22,000!

Tragedy for the Committee

Tragically, on March 17, 2005, one of the charter Committee members, Mike Gee, passed away suddenly at age 56.Mike was actively dedicated to the building of the monument and had designed the software application to track all of the donors and names submitted for engraving on the monument.His widow, Dianne, also a charter Committee member, asked that any donations in his memory be given to the Veterans Walk of Honor.Almost $5000 in donations from Mike Gee’s friends and family all over the country helped to build the monument.Mike is remembered with a large granite plaque under the flagpoles at the monument, with an etching of him in uniform and honoring his service with the California Army National Guard.

Making Progress

The Committee also began researching locations of other veterans’ monuments within Josephine County.They found that there was not one all-inclusive moment for veterans.There was a World War I monument in Cave Junction.Merlin Park had been the location for remembering World War II veterans; and there was another “Peace Monument” in Riverside Park in Grants Pass honoring all those residents of Josephine County who were killed in action during the Vietnam War.

It was clear that there was not any monument in existence which honored all military service personnel.The Veterans Walk of Honor Committee decided to petition the Board of County Commissioners for recognition of the Veterans Walk of Honor as The Josephine County Military Veterans Monument.They approved by ordinance.

By August, 2005, with $22,000 raised, the Committee was anxious to start building the monument!Dick Smith began discussing lighting with Monte Mendenhall and Jeff Kaiser of Pacific Power and Light.While Pacific Power could not provide cash donations to the project, they offered an alternative.If we could prepare the ground by trenching the area and placing the electrical conduit for the wiring, PP&L would put in street lights and raise the three flagpoles for us as an in kind donation which was valued at about $7000.The Committee was excited.Construction was about to begin!


Jerry Brown, Committee member and construction oversight manager, arranged for an in kind donation of a back hoe to dig the trenches for the electrical lines.Members of the Committee, led by Jerry, placed the pipe in the ground and inserted rope pulls so the electrical lines could be pulled through.

Aaron Wheeler Concrete bid on laying the walkway and the 40 foot square concrete pad.They also made a significant donation of time and talent so that early in October the pad was poured with about 58 yards of concrete.Wheeler Concrete has returned on several occasions during the construction to pour additional concrete as needed.

By this time, the Committee was extremely low on funds required to continue construction.Jerry Brown contacted Cascade Block for a donation of concrete blocks to build the pillars.They graciously donated some block seconds, and with the help of a couple of stone masons who charged very little to lay the blocks, construction on the pillars continued.

George Mullen, the architect and Committee member, contacted Grand Mar Natural Stone, owned and operated by Larry and Kathleen Smith.Larry Smith recommended African Green Granite to use as a cover for the pillars and offered to install the granite free of charge if the Committee purchased the granite.At this point, the Committee had exhausted the funds raised so far in the installation of the concrete pad and walkway.Dick Smith, Committee Chairman, approached the Merlin Community Park Board and asked for a no interest loan of $7,700 in order to purchase the granite.Due to the impressive fact that the Committee had already procured approximately $18,000 worth of in kind donations, the Park Board loaned the Committee the money.This loan was subsequently repaid to the Park Board by the Veterans Walk of Honor Committee in April 2005.

Larry Smith, Grand Mar Natural Stone, obtained a wholesale price on the granite for the Committee and generously donated the transport of the stone from Portland, OR, cut and polished the granite.The monument now had 40 sheets of beautiful granite thirty inches across and eight feet in height that would be used to inscribe the names of veterans.In addition, there was granite that would be used for the welcome signs to the monument.

The construction was now at a standstill without additional funding.Dick Smith and Walt Slater, another Committee member, approached Brady Adams of Evergreen Bank to ask for support in completing the construction of the monument.With Brady Adams philanthropic spirit, Evergreen Bank donated approximately $22,000 to be used to finish construction of the monument.

All during construction, Committee members continued to contact service and military groups to encourage veterans to become a part of the monument by recording their names and service to the country for their family to see and remember.


Meanwhile, the Committee was busy planning for the dedication of the new monument on Veterans Day, November 11, 2005, yet there was still work to be done to complete the monument in time for its grand opening.

In October, 2005, Recognition Specialties, under the supervision and expertise of George Keller, engraved both granite entrance signs for the monument.They also laid out the first pillars for engraving the many veterans’ names which had been submitted by donors since the inception of the project.By the time of the dedication, there were three panels with names installed by Grand Mar Natural Stone, the welcome signs, and the Mike Gee memorial.

On Veterans Day, November 11, 2005, the Veterans Walk of Honor was officially opened for all to see and admire.Dick Smith, Veterans Walk Committee Chairman, welcomed over 250 people gathered for the dedication.Major Ron McKay, Chaplain in the Oregon National Guard, led the opening prayer.The North Valley High School Band under the direction of Leanne Azevedo played the National Anthem while the Young Marines raised the flags over the monument.

Walt Slater, Committee member, introduced the entire Veterans Walk of Honor Committee and recognized many of the major donors.He then led the memorial dedication and unveiling of the granite plaque rememberingMike Gee, a charter Committee member who had passed away in March of 2005.His widow, Dianne Gee, also a Committee member, placed a rose on the newly unveiled granite plaque.

County Commissioner Dwight Ellis, USAF and Vietnam Veteran, then delivered a keynote address and spoke eloquently on the history of Veterans Day.Chaplain McKay offered a closing prayer for all veterans.

The Veterans Walk of Honor was officially open!It was a very proud day for all who had worked to make the monument possible.


Each side of a pillar can hold ninety veterans’ names, their rank, the war they were in and their period of service to the country.Gold stars are added to their names for heroes killed in action (KIA), purple hearts for those veterans wounded in action, a triangle for a prisoner of war (POW), and a circle for those veterans missing in action (MIA).

When Recognition Specialties completed the initial engraving phase, there were 360 veterans names engraved, 125 names in the monument walkway, and 19 benefactor names on the base of the pillars.The old WWII monument’s names were recreated on another panel and included all wars in which Josephine County Veterans had served and lost their lives.

George Keller engraved the names of those veterans from Josephine County who had given their lives in battle for World War I and II, Korea, and Vietnam—a total of 125 veterans.This memorial has room for additional names should they be needed.(The name of Juan Manuel Garcia-Schell was added in July 2007.Juan, a Josephine County resident, was killed in Iraq on July 2, 2007.)

The Grand Mars crew returned in December 2005 and January 2006 to finish hanging the 36 sheets of granite.

Although the monument had been dedicated, the project was still far from completion.There was still landscaping, flags for the flag poles, continuous engraving of new names, new electrical outlets, and other items needed to complete the monument as designed.

By July 30th, 2007, all construction and landscaping was finally completed.The Committee had raised approximately $70,000 with an additional $100,000 in value of in kind donations and services.

The Veterans Walk of Honor is a strikingly beautiful monument.The Committee was awed by the support, commitment, and donations of so many citizens and businesses in Josephine County.

Thank you Josephine County and Thank You to All Our Veterans!

Original Veterans Walk of Honor


Richard C. (Dick) Smith USAF (Ret) Korea

Walt SlaterUSAF Vietnam

Dave Trump USAF (Ret) Cold War

George Mullen USA World War 11

Jerry Brown USN Cold War

Bill ForsterUSMC Cold War

Mike GeeUSA Ca NG Cold War

Jerry Lomas USA Ca NG Cold War

Dianne Gee

Christy Pennington

Zack Hinkle

Merlin Veterans Honor Walk

Corporate Sponsors & Donors

John & Kimberly Ann Mullen

Richard & Nancy Smith(Bench)

Walt Slater

Cynthia Harelson

Phil & Vicki Stephens

Jim & Kathy Crowe, Sean & Jamie(flag pole)

Marilyn Luttrell (bench)

Sylvia Demel

Raeann Driggers

Art Harvey & Family

NCCM Beverly James Kokos 1864 2004 USN”Rest in Peace”Bench

Mr. & Mrs. William R. Forster

Diane L. Fisher

James & Daisy Vorhes

Alex J. Austin

Robert & Toni Pyatt

Mr. Fred Miles

Shirley & Jim McFarland

Jack &Cynthia Luce

Harry H. White

Jerry Jensen

Thomas E. Soles

Anthony & Celeste Guillory

James E. Dittmer

Don Gray

Paul A. Veltre

Russ & Teresa Oden

Teena LaVette & Norman Roley

Dale & Mary Roberts

Ricky K. Andrews

Eloise Ponte

Baldini’s Restaurant & Lounge ( Flag )

Richard & A. Lynn Pollock

Richard & Margaret Krull

Jeremy J. MartinRobert I. Brown

Li’l Pantry Market & Deli Inc.

Tom & Vye Santos

James & Eleanor Matney

American Legion Post 28

Dewey & Kathy Eley

Paul & Stephanie Wilson

Hellgate Jetboat Excursions

Grants Pass Josephine County Chamber of Commerce

Attic Storage (Mrs. Barbara Bean)

Eye Care Group Dr. Scott Walters

Southern Oregon Sanitation (Pat Fahey)

Gates Home Furnishings

Premier West Bank

Pennington Pool & Spa Service Ken & Christy Pennington and Family (Flag pole)

Keith & Carol Heck

Liberty Bank

Walter Ensminger

Richard L. Taylor

Jeffrey & Deborah Hyde

Bob & Joann Lee

Mae E. Quinn

Swift & McCormick Metal Processors, Inc

Jerry & Ginny Smith

Robert J. Schuller,USN

Nancy Baker

Joe & Lois McManus

New Donors as of July 31 2007

Lee & Sanders Families

Aaron Wheeler Concrete(in kind)

Linda Little Darrell Haugh

New Donors as of Oct 11, 2007

Fast Server, LLC

Paul Wilson



Evergreen Federal Bank

Larry & Kathleen Smith


Grants Pass Rotary Club

Cow Creek Tribe of Umpqa Indians

Home Valley Bank

Wal Mart, Grants Pass Store

Fourway Foundation

Marjorie Palonen(George Mullens Daughter)

Maj Gen Dave & Elaine Trump

Dave Twitchell

Richard & Nancy Smith (Bench)

Edward & Jos’ee Portuukalian (Bench)

Recognition Specialties

Umpqua Bank

IN Kind Donors

Grants Pass Josephine County Chamber of Commerce

Russ Heater Prudential Real Estate

Pacific Iron Works Inc, The Henderson family, Eric, Dana, Erica and Olivia

Robco Inc

Steve Ragusin Trucking

RM Lopera Trucking

Bill Smith Contracting

Ferguson Enterprises

Valentine Mining

Cliff Eells

The Wilson Family, Carl & Malinda KAJO

S&P Steel Fab & Machine

F. Muhlnickel Inc. Granite

Rock ‘N’ Ready Mix.

Pacific Power & Light

Grand Mar the owner, Larry D. Smith and the employees

Caveman Fence

George & Theresa Mullens

Craig Palonen

Eski’s Conveyor Truck Service,LLC

PM Farms

Mike Gee Endowment

Dick & Nancy Smith

Mr.& Mrs. Richard & Sue LePage

Michael A, Crane

A.L. McCardell

John Cheney

Lyle K. Sakamoto

Dr & Mrs. Joseph E. Keller

R. Alan & Lucille Burt

Mr & Mrs Bill Grotts

Mr. & Mrs. Bill Bunton

Gary & Bonnie Pardini

James & Sylvia Biddick

Mr. Booker Smith

Mr. & Mrs. Robert & Dorothy Schoon

William & Blanche Davis

Mrs. Gertrude Gruener

Kim & Gerry Kells

Dale & Sybil Lint

George & Theresia Mullen

James & Barbara Collin

George Hall Tony HallChristopher Hall

C. Helyn Trolle

Catherine A. Healy Jim Thorpe

Barbara Ann Chew

Elmer & Kimberley Huey-Nazareno

Mr. & Mrs. Ron & Diane Fisher

Ken & Linda Armstrong

Karen A. Cozz

Bruce & Becky Bochman

205th Infantry Battalion %R.L. Buckhout, Major (Ret)

Joe Lester & Toshiko Huey

Carol Garrity

Coni & Jim Donnelly

Advanced Network Information Inc

Joann Yates William W. King

Southern Oregon Soaring Society, Inc

Phil & Bev Stewart

Richard L. & Bonnie E. Holloway

Vernon & Marion Peel

David Wong & Vivian J. Liu

Dale & Andrea Greiner

Howard & Ginger Sackett


Marilyn LuttrellBench for Debbs


Copeland Sand & Gravel

Recognition Specialties

Fast Server