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Special memorial planned Saturday at Libby's Riverside Park

| May 24, 2006 12:00 AM

To the Editor:

The traditional observation of Memorial Day has changed and diminished in many communities.

In some, it's still a day for honoring the memory of those who have fallen and in others, the initial meaning is ignored. Libby has been a unique and notable exception with the community pulling together and honoring community members who have lost loved ones to a controversial adversary.

Memorial Day will not be the same in Libby without the familiar white crosses at the cemetery. Most of those who have faithfully put up the crosses are asbestos victims themselves. While it has become more difficult each year to put them up, each year there are more crosses to add.

The community, and those with names on a cross, deserve a permanent memorial that will honor those lost, losses still to come and the history of the community strength to overcome this tragedy. This year on Saturday, May 27, at 7:30 p.m. there will be a Memorial Dedication and Candlelight service at the new Libby Asbestos Memorial Site on the Riverfront Park.

In 2000, the Community Advisory Group set up a committee , CAMP, to work on a memorial in memory of the asbestos victims. This has been a long process, but over the last two weeks the efforts of the committee are finally paying off. The focus of the memorial has also changed.

The main focus is still to remember the community members who died from asbestos-related disease. However, the added focus is for the memorial to also honor Libby as a forward-moving community. The pavilion will not only be a place to remember, but also a place to celebrate. It will be a place for community and family gatherings - weddings, picnics or just a quiet walk by the river.

Last fall, the committee went to the Libby City Council and asked for the spot by the river, which is also the former loading dock site of W.R. Grace. The site was selected because it represents the recovery in that it has been cleaned and is in the process of becoming a beautiful park for the city to enjoy. It also has a feeling of peace and calm, making it an ideal spot to reflect and remember lost loved ones. The city generously allowed CAMP the use of the site and the contribution of materials for the pavilion.

The first stage of the project is almost finished. Because of volunteer work, the pavilion is now standing and waiting to be enhanced with a rock wall, walkway, garden, picnic benches and plaques that tell Libby's story and honor those who are no longer with us.

The support has been wonderful and we hope the community will continue to stand behind the product. We have a five-stage plan that depends solely on volunteers and the donations of others to see what we can accomplish as a community in revitalizing a town faced with overcoming tragedy while remembering those who are no longer with us with unity and respect.

Your generosity and support will bring us forward not only in dollars but also in devotion, dedication and hope for building a better future. If you would like to become a part of the committee or contribute time or money or other talents, please contact Gary Swenson at 293-7983 or Helen Clarke at 293-0100, ext 505. Donations may be mailed to CAMP/LCAVRO, P.O. Box 1343, Libby, MT 59923. On the bottom of the check write: For CAMP.

The CAMP committee would like to give a heartfelt thank you to: On Site Volunteers: Steve Douglas Smith of S.D.S. Contractors, who constructed the pavilion and donated about 60 hours of his time and tools; Kevin Wood, technical advice and constant supervision; Roger Morris; Gary Roberts; Corky Pape; Chris Pape; Lee VanArtsdale; Shaun Smook; LeRoy Billadeau; Eva Thomson; David Benefield; Mike Voorees; Tom Corbett; Dorothy Shelly; Vernon Riley; Brady Skramstad; Mary Tevebaugh; and Roy Cook, a 91-year-old supervisor.

Contributions and donations came from Libby City Council and the honorable Mayor Tony Berget; Libby Park District Board; Coral Cummings, chairperson; Rita Windom, county commissioner; First National Bank; LCAVRO chairperson Gayla Benefield; Windom Distributing; Kari Martell; Delbert and Linda Bowe for a donation of flat rock; Millwork West; Western Building Center; Cardinal True Value Hardware; Rosauers; Ace Hardware; McDonald's; Harlow Bus Sales; Ryan Westlund; and The Montanian and The Western News. Technical advice came from Jerry Marquez, Dean Crabtree and Marvin Steele.

Former members and initial planners of the CAMP are George and Diane Keck, Mike Switzer, Laura Sedler, Tanis Hernandez, Carrie Dedrick. Present members of CAMP are chairperson Helen Clark, Gary Swenson, Kari Martell, Mary Tevebaugh, Vern Riley, Dorothy Shelley, Gary Roberts, Eileen Carney, Jan Meadows, Dhana Nelson, Les and Norita Skramstad, and Betty Challinor.

Community Asbestos

Memorial Project