A few years ago, a former State employee from Kearney approached the District 4 Rewards and Recognition Panel with the suggestion that a memorial be established at the rest areas to honor State employees who had lost their lives while working for the Department of Roads. The employee pointed out there was a plague honoring these employees at the District office and at the Central Headquarters, but felt there should be something placed where it would be more visible, with hopes of making the traveling public think about how dangerous some of these jobs are and realize that employees have lost their lives while performing their duties. The suggestion was well received by the statewide panel and when presented to Director John Craig, received approval to proceed.
Since that time, a special committee was selected and gathered information about funding, appropriate type of memorial, location, etc. They shared this information with District Engineers, Maintenance Superintendents and others, whose responses were positive. The committee decided that one memorial should be placed in each district. Districts that included Interstate 80 would place their memorial at a rest area because of the high traffic volume. Districts that did not include I-80 would select a location heavily traveled with high visibility.
After much discussion, the
committee decided upon
Barb Kohles, Landscape Architect in Roadway Design, drew several design ideas for the memorial. Jan Havranek, Graphic Designer in Communication Division, drew up the selection, and Karl Fredrickson, Contracts Manager in Construction Division, began the sculpting process. Karl sculpted the original from clay and had a company from Montana cast eight plaques using the lost wax method, which involved many intricate steps to bring out the detail. The plaques were then attached to hand-selected boulders and prepared for placement in each of the districts.
The first Employee Memorial Dedication was held on Monday, August 27, 2001 at the "Blue River" Rest Area located on I-80 west of Lincoln. The unveiling of the Memorial Boulder and remarks from Governor Mike Johanns, Director John Craig, and Gary Voss were all a part of the first memorial dedication.
In addition to the State dedication ceremony near Lincoln, a dedication ceremony will be held in each of the other seven districts, commemorating those employees whose lives were lost in the line of duty across the state.
The employees memorial became a reality because of the commitment and dedication of many employees within the department. Working together as a team, employees created a lasting tribute to the ultimate sacrifice made by their fellow Department of Roads employees, and as a reminder of the need for vigilance and care on our highways.
Nebraska Department of Roads