Perhaps the most solemn, touching moment yesterday at the dedication of the Tucson WWII Memorial was when “Taps” was played at a moment of silence before an empty chair “representing all those no longer with us” as proclaimed by Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. About 500 people were at this unveiling of the monument at Armory Park (221 S. 6th Avenue) designed by artists Laura Slenning and Rebecca Thompson.
Photos above & below of the dedication by former Tucson birthday free lance photographer Jon Scanlon.
The creation of this memorial was the hard work by a lot of people most notably Councilmembers Steve Leal and Richard Fimbres of Ward 5, their staff members esp. Melinda Jacobs, the families of the late Gilbert Quintanilla, a U.S. Marine, and Connie Lujan Harris, who had first approached Councilman Leal about erecting such a memorial in Tucson in 2005. More history in my previous post (click here).
Speaking at the dedication were:
- Ward 5 Councilman Fimbres, who spoke of the 8 ½ years it took to build the memorial to “thank & honor those who served & died in WWII.”
- Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who read the City of Tucson’s proclamation, with “the highest respect and admiration for those who served in WWII”, who showed “indomitable spirit and fortitude”. His lawyer father is a WWII Veteran.
- CD 2 Congressman Ron Barber, who said their “WWII service will never be forgotten”, as the son of a WWII U.S. Army Air Corps veteran. He spoke of the impact of losing 400 Tucsonans whose names are on the memorial, from a much smaller Tucson community of only 40,000 at the end of WWII.
- D 2 Supervisor Ramon Valadez, who read Pima County Board of Supervisors’ proclamation.
- City Manager Richard Miranda, the son/son-in-law of WWII Veterans, who spoke of keeping their “sacrifice and commitment in our hearts”.
- former Ward 5 Councilmember Steve Leal, who reiterated Gilbert & Connie’s dream and perseverance, that the “soul of Tucson harnesses itself to what needs to be done” in the building of this memorial. His father and uncles served in WWII.
- former House Rep. Phil Lopes, who explained how he fought to get $100,000 from the State budget.
- former Mayor George Miller, a U.S. Marine in WWII, now age 91 who jokingly spoke of when he was younger about how they laughed of the old “guys left from the Civil War”, and that now he was one of the old guys left from WWII.Mayor Miller spoke of “3 important wars – the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and WWII, which “ended facism in Europe and the Pacific.” He also reminisced about a friend of his (nearly blind in one eye) who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in WWII and died in battle.
- D 5 Supervisor Richard Elias, spoke of “honoring all who served”, and whose cousin Henry A. Elias is one of the names on the memorial.
- Matthew Sample and Kellianne Candelaria, grandson and daughter respectively of Gilbert and Connie, who both thanked everyone present for making their family’s dream a reality in such a collaborative effort.
Diocese of Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas spoke of the “blessings of peace, and eternal peace for those who died” in WWII, after the unveiling of the memorial. Jerry Carlyle, Vice Chair of San Xavier District of Tohono O’odham Nation also solemnly performed a Native American blessing.
Many other politicians/officials were present today: State Senators David Bradley, Steve Farley, Olivia Cajero Bedford; State Reps. Ethan Orr, Andrea Dalessandro, Macario Saldate, Bruce Wheeler; Tucson Councilmembers Shirley Scott, Regina Romero, and Karin Uhlich, representatives from Councilman Paul Cunningham’s and CD 3 Congressman Raul Grijalva’s offices;former State Senator Victor Soltero, former House Rep. Ted Vogt, now State Director of Veteran Services; Don Jorgensen, Chair of the Pima County Democratic Party, and CD 2 House candidate Col. Martha McSally.
The compass design on the memorial’s east side represents “that Tucsonans left home to fight in every corner of the world” according to Councilman Fimbres (see photo below). The actual wording is “The compass at the heart of this Memorial is a reminder that this war was fought from every direction across the globe”.