The City of Merrill Fire Department held a dedication Sunday of the Merrill Firefighter Memorial, installed at the corner of Pier and Second streets outside the new fire station.
The ceremony included speeches from local dignitaries, representatives from the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs and the Wisconsin State Professional Firefighters. Bagpipers and buglers from the States Firefighters also participated in the ceremony.
Since 1888, when the Merrill Fire Department was formed a total of 181 firefighters have served the department in its 126-year history.
“They have served and continue to serve the Merrill community with honor and dedication,” said Merrill Fire Department Captain Mike Drury.
With the building of the new fire station, a grass roots committee was formed to discuss the possibility to create a permanent firefighter memorial giving families, friends, co-workers and community members a permanent location to pay tribute to these men who have served the community. In addition, the Memorial honors Lieutenant Thomas Beckman who in January 1978, made the ultimate sacrifice and died in the line of duty serving the citizens of Merrill.
Members of Lt. Beckman’s family were honored guests at the dedication ceremony. His daughters, Lisa Hass and Susan Ryman, spoke the assembled crowd mostly made up on firefighters, past and present, and their families. Lt. Beckman’s widow, Polly, was presented with a folded flag in his honor.
“We are infinitely grateful to all those who serve, especially those who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” Ryman said. “And to those firefighters no longer with us, you will never be forgotten.”
The Merrill Firefighter’s Memorial stands as a testament to the Merrill Fire Department’s commitment to never forget those that served this community’s citizens and businesses.
The base of the memorial is a 20-foot diameter pad with a Maltese Cross cast in the concrete. The Maltese Cross is the badge of a Fire Fighter; it is a symbol of protection and a badge of honor. Its story and legacy is hundreds of years old.
Incorporated in the memorial is a flag pole to hold the American flag.
In tribute to Lt. Beckman, a bronze helmet site atop the memorial. The helmet bears the number 15, which was Beckman’s helmet number.
The firefighter helmet has been recognized symbol of firefighters since the early days of America. The eagle on top of the helmet dates to about 1825 when an unknown sculptor designed it for a firefighters memorial and has been in use ever since. The helmet on the monument is twice life size. It is a striking sculpture with attention to details such as helmet stitching, brim scrollwork, and traditional eagle shield holder.
On each side of the bronze helmet and plaque is a stone wall for seating for contemplation and reflection.
A granite plaque which pays tribute to the firefighter's spirit of teamwork, focus, and dedication to community is the center piece of the memorial.
Merrill Fire Chief Dave Savone said the Merrill Fire Department is very fortunate to have the citizens and business that support those firefighters.
Private funds and donated materials were used to accomplish the building of the Merrill Firefighter Memorial.