SNOHOMISH — Otis Wolfe noticed the cracks in the granite years ago.
As a maintenance worker with the Snohomish School District, he watched them grow.
It saddened the 1971 Snohomish High School graduate and Navy veteran to see the damage spread through the names of the 81 servicemen from his hometown who had given their lives for their country in times of war.
He’d mention it to others, hoping something could be done to repair the monument at Veterans Memorial Stadium on the Snohomish High School campus.
The fissures were too deep. The monument couldn’t be fixed. It had to be replaced.
Thanks to teachers and students, that’s what happened.
On Friday, Wolfe and other veterans from the community were on hand for a ceremony unveiling a new memorial honoring the local fallen.
“I love it,” Wolfe said.
When he looks at the memorial, Wolfe, 63, thinks about the grassroots efforts to make sure the names were not lost.
“I see all the work behind the scenes,” Wolfe said. “It has been an uphill climb.”
One of those behind-the-scenes figures was Tuck Gionet, a Snohomish High School civics teacher who believed a meaningful education extended well beyond what could be taught inside a classroom. He’d routinely have students draft bills. They’d go to Olympia and try to get state lawmakers to sponsor the legislation.
In the case of the monument, three students who have since graduated took a trip to the capital to make their case. Allison Hoeth, Tanner Foust and Cameron Calder left a photo of the cracking monolith at then-Rep. Hans Dunshee’s office. He’d been to Gionet’s classroom and had heard about the need. The photo made an impression. Dunshee included an appropriation in the House Capital Budget.
The memorial cost $12,306, according to school district records. The state is paying $9,700. The high school ASB is contributing $684 with the school district making up the difference. Quiring Monuments of Seattle created the work.
Capt. Will Lennon, senior Marine instructor for the school’s JROTC program, had all three students who lobbied Dunshee as cadets in his program. He remembers the conversations he had with Gionet, his students and Mark Perry, the school’s athletic director.
“It has been a little bit of a journey,” Lennon said the other day. “It was named Veterans Memorial Stadium for a reason.”
Lennon is thankful for the dignified tribute.
“It’s a somber reminder for anyone who walks by it” of the sacrifices made, he said. “You can’t put a price on it.”
The new memorial comes in three pieces with flower beds alongside. Among the recently planted flowers are red and white snapdragons.
The first 15 names on the monument were former Snohomish students who served in World War I. Next came the 51 who died during World War II followed by eight during the Korean War and six in the Vietnam War.
The 81st name belonged to Marine Corps Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr, 22, a 2001 Snohomish High School graduate who died in Iraq in 2005.
When it was being demolished, the old monument yielded evidence that people do remember the lives lost.
Quarters and pennies were dislodged from the cracks.
Different denominations carry different meanings. A penny can represent someone who knew the deceased and stopped by to pay their respects. A quarter, Wolfe said, is for those who were with them when they died.
The coins were collected and embedded in the concrete beneath where the new granite monument now stands.
Chunks of the old memorial were given to the Gay Jones Post No. 921 of the Veterans of Foreign War and the Earl Winehart Post No. 96 of the American Legion in Snohomish. The names of both Jones and Winehart are etched in the granite. They died in World War I.
Wolfe was told the cracks likely were caused by someone hitting the monument with a car while trying to park. Rain and cold did the rest.
There is no parking near the new memorial.
Wolfe was in the Navy, active duty and reserves, for 20 years. He served in Vietnam, as did his sister, Darlene Harrington, who was an Army nurse. He hired on with the school district in 2001. It was not long after he began noticing the cracks in the monument.
He found an ally in Gionet, who helped and involved veterans in many ways, Wolfe said. Gionet was not at Friday’s ceremony. He died of cancer last year.
There is something quite satisfying in knowing people from his hometown and alma mater care, Wolfe said.
“It’s great to see it come together,” he said. “… Once a Panther always a Panther.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.