Volunteers wield shovels for Fountain of Honor

<I>Elane Dickenson/Chieftain</I><BR>A corp of volunteers wields shovels on the Fountain of Honor project in front of the Wallowa County Courthouse.

A corps of shovel-yielding volunteers recently dug the Fountain of Honor project on the Wallowa County Courthouse lawn a lot closer along its path to completion.

Susan Roberts, now a Wallowa County commissioner, and her brother, courthouse custodian Everett Roberts - both ex-Marines - spearheaded the project, which started at the beginning of 2007 under the auspices of the local VFW post.

Since July, the pair had been personally digging a hole in their off hours for the circular base of the wall that will surround the fountain area.

In early September, a group of volunteers from the Enterprise LDS church - led by contractor Ken Nash and joined by others when they saw the work in progress - completed the round hole, shoveling the dirt into wheel barrels and hauled to Nash's waiting truck. In all about two dozen people helped out.

"They finished it in about two-and-a-half hours," said Susan Roberts, who expressed her gratitude for the volunteer work crew.

Finishing the hole leads the way for putting in plumbing, electricity (for night lighting) and a concrete wall, which will be faced with the same Bowlby stone from which the courthouse is made. The center will consist of a concrete pool, with a bronze eagle in the middle.

"We want to get as much of the wall as we can built this fall," Roberts said.

The goal is to honor the men and women who served - or are now serving - in any branch of the U.S. military. The wall will include memorial capstones and be surrounded by about eight memorial benches. The pathway to the center of the fountain will be paved with bricks purchased by family members or others to honor both living and dead military personnel.

Roberts said the first batch of bricks have already been ordered, but orders are still being taken for more.

The project cleared a big hurdle when it was awarded an $85,826 grant from the state Veterans and War Memorials Grant Program last year.

The total budget for the fountain - which will be placed on the northwest corner of the Wallowa County Courthouse square - is $113,550. Approximately $27,000 in donations (including labor) has been raised or pledged. In order to tap into the grant money, the work must be done first, and then reimbursed, Roberts said, causing a little bit of a cash flow problem.

However, the fountain is expected to be finished next year.

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