In the summer of 1987, Ric A. Delugo, an artist and Vietnam vet, envisioned a living memorial to Vietnam veterans: a dedicated forest grove consisting of more than 58,000 trees, one planted for each American service person killed in the Vietnam War. He explained his idea to a friend, John Sutter of the United States Forest Service, who became instrumental in presenting the idea to the USFS, and helped guide the project through the bureaucratic process.
Over time, the concept expanded from the Vietnam War to include a broader understanding of War, and its effects upon all human beings caught up in the process.
As the concept further evolved, Delugo’s vision included the installation of a series of metal sculptures beginning with the “Why?” group. To help him in this creation, he spent weeks tracking down an old friend and artist, Dennis Smith, a Marine veteran of Vietnam, who had a talent for making large steel sculptures of expressive grace. Dennis had been contemplating a similar vision. Together, they joined forces for the project.
In 1988, Dennis arrived in Siskiyou County with $6 in his pocket. At first, all Ric could offer Dennis was a place to live and food. But as time passed, they began getting small donations, enough to buy materials and tools needed to move the project forward.
The Living Memorial Sculpture Garden started with the acquisition of 136 acres of U.S. Forest Service land, about 13 miles north of Weed, CA on Hwy 97. Soon, the idea took hold within the Siskiyou County community, and beyond. Many people came forward to donate their time and labor, as well as make generous financial contributions for the creation of the garden.
More than 90,000 trees were planted by families, elementary and high school children, agriculture classes, church groups, 4H clubs, as well as members of organizations such as C.A.T.T.L.E., and Veterans groups, such 41st Division VFW, the American Legion, and AMVETS . The Garden’s trees were provided by the United States Forest Service.
In the process, the founding Board of Directors for the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden was formed from interested community volunteers:
President: Ric A. Delugo (Founder, Jeweler, Vietnam Vet)
Secretaries: Karen Flannery McFadden (Teacher) & Mary Roehrich (Teacher)
Treasurer: Terry Naylor (R.V.N. – Mental Health Counselor)
- Dick Sumner (Veterinarian, Korean War Vet)
- John Sutter (U.S.F.S., retired)
- Gene Breceda (Teacher, Korean War Vet)
- Ace Cozzalio (Lieutenant-Colonel, US Army, Retired, Vietnam Vet)
- Will McCIain (Episcopal Priest, I.B.M. Exec., Retired)
- Gordon Dunlap (Major, US Army, Retired, Teacher, Rancher)
Design & Placement Of Sculptures
The original design called for the creation of nine sculptures for the Garden. By consensus, the Board arrived at a theme or concept, which was passed on to Dennis Smith, who then created and presented a proto-type to the Board for approval.
The “Why?” statue was the first to be erected at the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden, with the help of the inmates from the CDC Center, Deadwood, and the California Conservation Corps (CCC) at the Siskiyou County Airport.
The “Korean War Veterans Monument” was the second to be completed, followed by “The Flute Player“, the “POW-MIA“, “The Nurses“, and “The Refugees” (a series of small figures, since removed due to vandalism).
The last three statues were dedicated on the same day: “The Peaceful Warrior” (dedicated by Lieutenant Colonel Ace Cozzalio, US Army, Ret.), “Those Left Behind” (dedicated by Joe Funderberg) and “Coming Home” (dedicated by Colonel William Seymour, USMC, Ret.) .
At the time, Lieutenant Colonel Cozzalio was in very poor health. Soon after this dedication, he went to the VA Hospital in Portland Oregon for a heart transplant, but the operation was not successful.
On May 5,1993, a Memorial Service was held for Lieutenant Colonel Cozzalio at the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden. After the memorial service many dollars were given in his memory. These donations enabled planning the Hot LZ Wall. The Wall was designed and constructed by a team lead by Jim Leach, with the helicopter sculpture created by Dennis Smith. The Wall was dedicated on May 30,1994. The LMSG Board at that time was composed of Jim Leach, Roger Kosel, Carolee Layton, Paul Leskowitz, Gordon Dunlap and Gene Breceda.
Arrival of the Weed-Lake Shastina Kiwanians
The Weed/Lake Shastina Kiwanis Club was very interested in the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden, and in August 1994, they signed a use permit with the USFS and assumed full responsibility for the LMSG, as an on-going community service project. The LMSG Board is now composed completely of members of the Kiwanis Club of Weed/Lake Shastina. The LMSG is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. It’s fiscal year runs from March 1 through February 28.
Since coming under the guidance of the Kiwanians, many improvements have been made at the LMSG. The access roads and parking lot have been paved, and a new sign has been placed at the entrance, along with an information kiosk. In concert with Cal Trans, signage has also been placed along Hwy 97. A concrete apron has been placed in front of the Hot LZ Wall, new benches have been set at some of the sculptures, a Sponsor’s Wall has been installed in the parking area near the information kiosk, each sculpture has received a protective coating against the elements, and a studio has been built for Dennis, where he can work and oversee the Garden.
Continuing Dedication & Service
Each year, two memorial services are held at the LMSG, one on Memorial Day (May) and another on Veterans’ Day (November). At these memorial services, new names are placed on the Hot LZ Wall. Each name inscribed is of a veteran of the U.S. military and allied forces. Virtually, every war and conflict that the United States has been involved in, is represented by names of service personnel upon the Wall.
However, the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden is not only for veterans, but for everyone, as we are all affected by conflicts in this world. Although we may not be the soldier, sailor, marine or airman engaged in a conflict, we may be a family member left behind, or the refugee whose home has been torn up by the ravages of war.
The Living Memorial Sculpture Garden is a place for contemplation and reflection upon the valiant efforts of human beings to make this world a more peaceful place in which to live. To their sacrifice, this place is dedicated.