Reporting Gordy Leach
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – A memorial for firefighters will be built on the State Capitol mall next year.
Firefighters from departments across the state gathered Wednesday morning in Chanhassen, Minn. to announce that fundraising is complete for the $600,000 project.
Among those at the ceremony were widows of firefighters who died in the line of duty 40 years ago.
Mary McElmurry and Marva Johnson have been friends since their husbands both died fighting the same fire in 1971.
“It was a pizza house fire on Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park,” said Marva Johnson.
They are thrilled that this firefighter memorial statue will be moved to a new site — near the Police Officers Memorial — on the Capitol grounds.
Currently, a statue of a firefighter carrying a little girl to safety is a tribute to the 194 firefighters who have died in Minnesota. But its location at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport seemed odd to many.
An effort to get the statue moved to the State Capitol was undertaken and is now a success.
Mary McElmurry and Marva Johnson wanted to be at the event announcing that fundraising was complete. They were escorted in with other family members of fallen firefighters. The new memorial will be a place of reflection for families… as well as the public.
“And it’s gonna open the day before the anniversary of our husbands’ deaths, which was Oct. 8 — 40 years ago,” said Mary McElmurry.
The memorial will be on the Capitol’s south mall, near a handful of memorials honoring veterans. It will include the airport statue, and be surrounded by a plaza with the names of firefighters who died while on duty.
“The poles are lined up chronologically by year and month, and then the poles will have the names of the fallen firefighters, based on the year and the month that they died,” said Edina Fire Chief Marty Scheerer, describing the memorial. “Their names will be on the poles, and also their names will point the direction of the city that they were from.”
All Minnesota firefighters were asked to donate $30 to the memorial fund and many gave more.