It’s been a long time in coming, but supporters of setting up a memorial for Arkansas fallen firefighters had their day Saturday with a dedication service that took place on the west side of the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock.
“For those who answered the call and did not return to their families, we are eternally grateful,” said Jackie Warren, one of the organizers for the dedication service. “Now, it is time to honor them.”
Warren said it took 25 years of fundraising and hard work to make the memorial a reality.
“This site will be a place of reflection, honor, and education for this and future generations,” she said. “The names of dozens of men and women who have died in the line of duty will be etched in the granite that surrounds the ‘Win Rockefeller Fountain of Faith’ and the bronze statue representing the branches of the fire-service in Arkansas.”
Additional names will be added, as needed, each year at an annual ceremony.
“We must step up to tell the families that their family members did not die and then were forgotten. They paid a price for their dedication and sacrifice. The children need to know of the firefighter’s duty in the face of danger.” Chairman Johnny Reep.
The statues are 11 feet 6 inches high. “Old Leather Lungs” represents the origins of firefighters. “The Angel of Mercy” represents paramedic firefighters. “On the Line”, the wild land and the forestry firefighter. “Push’In” represents all of our current firefighters. The center statue and fountain are known as the Win Rockefeller Fountain of Faith.
Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller was the Finance Chair until his death. The Arkansas Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial is also a fire safety education venue, with a 110-seat amphitheater.
Honorary Chairs are: James Lee Witt, Publicity Chair, Rush Harding, Shirley Davis Miller, and Jim Lindsey. Jackson Brown Palculict is the architect. East Harding is the General Contractor. Paula Haskins of Walnut Ridge was the statue artist. Robert Daus of Liberty Art Works, of St. Louis, Missouri, is the sculptor.
The Arkansas Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial 24/7 Fire Safety Program, which started in 2012, is funded with a grant from The Motorola Solutions Foundation. Through the grant, the Arkansas Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial 24/7 Fire Safety Program has purchased radio airtime on multiple stations, Warren said.
Although the memorial project has been a statewide effort, Warren said there has been a considerable amount of involvement in firefighters in North Little Rock, Sherwood and Jacksonville.
“This is a statewide project honoring all who died in the line of duty. Unfortunately, our most recent death was a Jacksonville firefighter,” she said.
Warren said fire departments in the North Little Rock, Sherwood, and Jacksonville areas have spent a considerable amount of time sacrificing for the cause of the memorial.
“Over the years, all of these departments and more in your area have held fundraisers, sold T-shirts, fish fry events, spaghetti suppers, BBQ cook-offs, concerts, and more to raise money for the memorial,” Warren said. “The citizens have also stepped up over the 25 years of the project, attending these events to show their appreciation for what these men and women do everyday.”
Warren listed six departed firefighters and the dates of their passing away:
LeRoy Cook — North Little Rock Fire Department— Feb. 6, 1930;
Louis Caraccoilo — South Bend Fire Department — Nov. 11, 1989;
Dania Stivers — North Pulaski Fire Department — May 12, 1995;
Randy Williford — North Little Rock Fire Department — July 9, 1995;
Mike Bevans — North Little Rock Fire Department — Nov. 6, 2005;
Donald Jones — Jacksonville Department — March 19, 2012.
Warren said the memorial honors all who have fallen in the line of duty and at least six of those departed firefighters were from North Little Rock-Sherwood-Jacksonville area in addition to the more than 90 others from across the state.
On Saturday, the North Little Rock Fire Department participated with an honor guard and bagpipes, according to Warren.