Honoring the fallen
five years ago, Patty Smith went to Placerville to visit a memorial for veterans and felt inspired to see something similar built in South Lake Tahoe to honor her son, other veterans and public safety workers.
Wednesday morning, that idea came took its first physical steps forward at Happy Homestead Cemetery on Johnson Boulevard when dignitaries broke ground in a ceremony.
Representatives from the South Lake Tahoe Police and Fire departments, the U.S. Forest Service, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, and local fire agencies attended the ceremony.
Smith’s son, Sgt. Timothy Michael Smith, 25, was killed on April 7, 2008 in Baghdad, Iraq. Timothy Smith grew up in South Lake Tahoe and graduated from South Tahoe High School in 2001, and enlisted in the Army in 2004.
“I remember going in front of the board, shaking like a leaf, asking if we could do something like this,” Smith said during the ceremony.
Construction will start in the next two- or three- weeks. The memorial will sit across from the cemetery main office and include 178 niches, in ground cremation area, a new flagpole with all of the service emblems in the bricks around it and memory bricks around the paver walkway.
Approximately 1,100 veterans are interred at Happy Homestead Cemetery.
Smith thanked the board for funding the project instead of waiting for years of fundraising.
“I’m fortunate to have lived in a community that has been there for me and my family since the day Timothy died,” Smith said.
The cemetery district board of trustees approved the financing for the memorial. The cemetery will sell engraved memory bricks at $100 per brick to help fund the memorial.
John Poell, board chair and a battalion chief for Lake Valley Fire Protection District, said it couldn’t be done without Smith’s inspiration five years ago.
“I never forgot that board meeting because it was very somber and moving,” Poell said.
“We want to remember their courage, dedication and achievements and to say thank you for their sacrifices,” Poell said. “A person can’t help but feel awed by all that they have encountered.”
Bill Malloy from American Legion Post No. 795 said it is an honor bestowed upon the veterans and public safety employees in the area.
“With this memorial, they will be remembered for their sacrifices and dedication to the community, state, and nation,” Malloy said.
Kathay Lovell, past South Lake Tahoe Mayor and current cemetery district board member, gave credit to Smith and district general manager Mike Warren for making the memorial a reality.
“This project is really just going to be appreciated for generations to come,” Lovell added.
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A grand opening will be held for Chick-fil-A Carson Valley, located at 4751 Cochise St., on Jan. 21.