The new Veteran’s Memorial at Oakdale City Hall creates an enduring space for citizens to honor military friends and family, enhanced by the use of retaining walls, paver surfaces and natural stone.
The city celebrated its first official Memorial Day on Tuesday, May 28, 2013, said Park Superintendent Randy Bastyr, so that local VFW and American Legion post members who were already booked at other observances could participate. The event included a flag ceremony, color guard, gun salute, bugler, guest speaker Col. Eric Ahlness and soloist Whitney Russell, a student at Tartan High School.
“The Oakdale Veteran’s Memorial committee wanted a place to commemorate veterans and servicemembers and for the city and citizens,” said Bastyr. “The committee raised funds by selling engraved pavers, which paid for a large portion of the project. Pavers can be purchased by people in honor of loved ones who are veterans or in the military. We’ll have about 240 engraved pavers installed by Memorial Day, and we have room for about 600 pavers total.”
In 2010, a group of local veterans and citizens formed a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. They raised about $8,000 through a raffle and about $19,000 through sales of engraved pavers, which are installed in a flagpole plaza in front of the memorial. The remainder of the $44,000 project is funded by a low-interest loan from the city, the ongoing sale of pavers and future fundraising events, said Bastyr.
The memorial was completed and dedicated in October 2012. The 800-square-foot site includes a retaining wall, inset column designs that hold black granite commemorative plaques which serve as focal points, plus natural stone benches and monuments.
“The Oakdale Veteran’s Memorial Committee worked to fulfill the dream of creating a beautiful and fitting tribute to veterans and their families,” said Bill Rasmussen, chairperson of the committee. “The memorial is a place of honor, reflection and pride so Oakdale citizens will have a place for Memorial Day, Flag Day and Veterans Day observances and other events.”
The initial design called for a double wall exposed on both sides and set with the memorial plaques. But after looking at the site, Jerry Koecher of Linwood Contracting, and employee Becky Heavey, suggested a retaining wall with portions of exposed split face block on the back side. They devised inset columns within the wall to offer protection for the polished granite plaques. Both modifications proved to be a more cost-effective solution.
“A double wall is double the money of a retaining wall,” said Koecher. “It would also have required wider, custom limestone caps, which are more expensive too. We addressed the issue by creating a retaining wall that has some exposed back. Using VERSA-LOK Standard retaining wall block, we created the wall and features that would help protect the commemorative plaques rather than exposing them to the elements.”
Matching columns within the retaining wall provide a safeguard to the etched plaques that have images of a bald eagle, a poem and dedication text, plus insignia from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines.
“VERSA-LOK is versatile and can be used to create other features in addition to retaining and freestanding walls,” said Koecher. “You also can make columns, stairs, corners and curves with the standard unit without the need for special pieces. This has really been one of my favorite projects because of who it honors and for the interesting solutions that enhanced the design.”
The committee and Koecher selected the VERSA-LOK Rose Creek Blend to create the retaining wall as well as the columns in the center and on each end, which are capped with buff-colored Indiana limestone.
“This solution protects the engraved plaques and sets them off visually, and it also creates a nice dimensionality,” said Jason Rexine, contractor manager at VERSA-LOK. Willow Creek Brickstone paving stones in the Harvest Blend color from VERSA-LOK Midwest were also used in the patio projects.
From an aerial view, the design of the Veteran’s Memorial resembles the city of Oakdale's tree logo. “If you look at the entire design of the Veteran’s Memorial from above, it almost looks like the shape of the Oakdale tree logo. That wasn’t intended, but we think of it as kind of a happy accident,” said Rasmussen.
Koecher also created a matching pillar in the plaza to serve as a foundation for an existing veteran’s memorial obelisk previously located at the entrance to City Hall.
Other stone memorials include two basalt pillars that function as water features, donated by Super Smokedale and SEH Architects of Oakdale and from a Lake Elmo stone supplier. These hold bronze plaques in honor of the Minnesota National Guard, POWs and MIAs. Another bronze plaque mounted on a limestone slab lists individual and business volunteers, major donors and contractors/suppliers involved in the project.
In addition to the memorial, two new paver patio areas highlight Oakdale police officer Richard Walton, who died in the line of duty in 1982. A boulder with a plaque honoring Walton was moved to a newly constructed planter and patio near the entrance to Richard Walton Park, adjacent to
City Hall. The planter is constructed of VERSA-LOK Rose Creek Blend to match the memorial wall. The other area honoring Walton and other officers is between the new Veteran’s Memorial and the City Hall entrance and includes seating.
“We are very grateful to all of the volunteers and businesses who helped with the project or donated materials and time and made this project a reality.” said Rasmussen. "Using engraved pavers as a fundraiser is a great way to help fund a project like this. It gives people a personal investment and involvement in the project while creating a wonderful public space that honors our veterans.”