The dedication of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. during Memorial Day weekend next month will be anti-climatic for the crew of Valley Bronze in Joseph. The fine arts foundry recently completed the installation of 40 tons of bronze wreaths, grates and other memorial features it has produced over the past two years.
"At our peak we had 57 people working on it," said production manager Kent Weaver, who since October has taken six trips and spent a total of two months in the nation's capital overseeing installation work.
In all the WWII contract to Valley Bronze was worth almost $2.5 million, and also put the foundry on the national map.
"We're working on several other bids now," said Chris Jackman, who recently took over the title of president from husband Dave in the family corporation. He is now secretary/treasurer, and they continue working together on business decisions.
"We're very proud of our work," said the president. "The general contractor told us we outperformed any other subcontractor on the job.'"
The foundry will be represented at the official dedication on May 29, but will be more involved in a tent display outside the Smithsonian Institute for an hour a day two days before and a day after dedication day. During that exhibition, the many artisans and subcontractors involved in creating the memorial will be asked to show and describe their part of the project.
Valley Bronze's work is integral and highly visible to the monument, which is located between the Lincoln and Washington monuments and next to the famous Reflecting Pond.
The foundry produced 735 bronze grates in a stylized American flag motif that surround the memorial's Rainbow Pond, which weighed a total of 22,000 pounds; a 12-foot base to the flag pole, including bronze plaques that symbolize each branch of the service; and 56 bronze wreaths that hang from the 56 stone pillars of the Freedom Wall, representing each state and U.S. territory.
Dave Jackman said that the final design of the WWII monument was selected, in part, because it complimented rather than competed with existing monuments.
The center line of the Wall of Stars is the Lincoln Memorial, Jackman said. That wall is studded with 4,123 sterling silver stars, plated with gold, produced at Valley Bronze, each one representing 100 battlefield deaths.
"I'd see buckets full of the stars going through the foundry, and think that each stood for 100 men. The magnitude was overwhelming," recalled Dave Jackman. He said that both his and Chris' fathers are World War II veterans.
A contingent of 14 World War II veterans, spouses and widows involved in Wallowa County's VFW chapter are planning to make the trip east for the dedication.
In addition to production manager Weaver, foundry workers Jim George and Heath Williamson also spent a lot of time in Washington, D.C., doing installation work, joined for a week or two by Justin Doherty and by patina experts Dennis Brennan and Slim Carpenter.
All 80,000 pounds of bronze pieces for the monument were hauled by Wallowa County truckers Scott and Lorilei Burch in three cross-country trips.
The patina or finish mixture for all the bronze pieces in the entire WWII monument, verde green to resemble the color of weathered bronze, was developed at Valley Bronze.
The Jackmans hope the highly-praised work they did on the memorial puts their foot in the door for similar work in the future. With the Jackmans' three daughters and single son as co-owners, the feminine gender outnumbers the masculine four to two, making the foundry woman-owned. When they discovered a woman at the helm would give an extra edge in applying for federal grants through the Small Business Administration, they made the change from Dave to Chris Jackman as corporation president.
They said that their work on the World War II national monument will always be something very special. "We had a sense of a once in a life-time opportunity to be part of something that will last forever," said Dave Jackman. "Those monuments on the mall are on sacred ground."