What started as an idea to honor veterans in Jefferson County in 2004, materialized into the Jefferson County Veterans Memorial in 2010, and grew in 2012 with the addition of 591 more names.
The concrete, brick and granite memorial was coordinated by former Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post No. 1004 member and the late Gary Williams after the idea was sparked by late World War II veteran Harvey Fields nearly 15 years ago.
Korean War veteran George Marriott recollects the moment Fields came to him wondering if Jefferson County could be the scene of its own memorial.
“I took the pictures of the Malad Memorial to the VFW meeting and gave the commander information,” he said.
The information provided intrigued the VFW and thus a project chairman for the project was requested and Williams stepped-up.
Marriott said the first step in bringing the memorial to life was collecting the names of veterans in the county and verify their credentials.
“It took quite a while,” he said.
On May 27, 2008 a monumental step was taken towards making Williams’ and Marriott’s vision a reality when Jefferson County voters voted in favor of a special tax to be levied for the maintenance of the memorial.
The original bid on the structure was $450,000 which was deemed too expensive. To help finance the project, the VFW sold its old home near Main Street in Rigby for $45,000 and the Rigby Urban Renewal donated another $35,000. Marriott said the project ultimately cost $145,000 and the majority of funds were donations.
Such donations were contributed from a variety of local business, patrons and clubs including the Rigby Study Club, Rocky Mountain Power, Old School Classic American Car Club, Rigby High School Band, The Jefferson Star and many, many more.
The total donations amounted to $97,539.
Four years after the project began the county broke ground on the memorial. Construction began in the spring of 2008 and continued in phases as donations continued to come in.
When the memorial was completed and dedicated in 2010, it featured 3,449 names engraved on 28 slabs of granite inlaid in stone. Names were divided by conflicts ranging from the Civil War, Indian Wars, World War I and many more.
Williams told The Jefferson Star in 2010 that the names of the veterans came from histories of the county, scrapbooks, cemeteries, the VFW and the Idaho National Guard.
“There’s just so many that have helped out, I can’t thank them enough,” he said in 2010.
VFW Post No. 1004 Commander Roy Gibson said without the aid of Williams guiding the project, and the help of Marriott and Korean War Veteran Orrin Welker the memorial may not have come to be.
“Gary (Williams) ramrodded the whole thing,” he said. “He directed and designed the memorial, was instrumental in getting the bond passed for maintenance of the memorial and was able to able to get volunteers to help with most of the worked that would’ve been contracted.”
For Gibson and other members of the VFW, the memorial is a place of remembrance.
“When you walk through there you can almost feel their spirit,” he said. “It’s a memorial for all those who served our county and a place to go down and remember them.”
For Marriott, the memorial is not only a place for remembrance but also a reminder of the World War I veterans he bonded with in the 1950s when he first joined the VFW and returned home from the Korean War.
The memorial now features more than 4,000 names, and continues to grow. Marriott said there are several hundred names Williams was going to include before he passed away earlier this year.
Gibson said he is still trying to track down the names Williams collected.
In 2012 Williams said as names are added and as the United States enters into new conflicts, the memorial will always be a work in progress.
“I think it will continue to grow,” former Rigby Mayor Keith Smith said in 2012. “It will be a focal point for our community and county on special days of observance.”