Community memorial complete
RIFLE — John Scalzo tried unsuccessfully while Rifle mayor to get a veterans memorial built in the 1970s.
“I tried it when I was president of the chamber (of commerce) — couldn’t do it,” he said.
“If you’ve ever been to Park Avenue Car Wash, you’ll see a (small) memorial there. I did it myself,” he said.
After selling the car wash, he continued to pursue the idea of a true community veterans memorial, undeterred even by a delay brought on by prostate cancer.
Last November, the 86-year-old’s dream came to fruition, but only after Scalzo had convinced the community to buy into the idea, which, he says, it did, to the tune of nearly $100,000 for a two-phase project.
“When I heard the idea it sounded like something we definitely needed in our community,” said donor John Kuersten of Kuersten Construction.
A Rifle native and third-generation Garfield County resident, Kuersten said the names of several of his family members are on the memorial.
Scalzo said Kuersten contributed all the cement work and got in-kind donations from others, including Bookcliff Survey Services and Westar Inc. engineering.
Some other major donors have been Garfield County, Rifle, Silt and New Castle; individual donors such as the late Bill Clough and his widow, Genevieve; the local Elks Lodge; and Carlson Memorials in Grand Junction, which gave a stone worth more than $3,000.
And the donations keep coming. When Scalzo went to Wal-Mart in Rifle to buy frames for pictures of the memorial to give to donors, the store contributed $500 worth of frames to the cause. Store manager Kevin Steward said he didn’t hesitate to have Wal-Mart help out.
“I come from a military family so I’m very supportive of anything that has to do with the military community. … I think it’s a great cause,” he said.
The site, at the city’s Deerfield Park, consists of the Rifle Veterans Memorial, the first phase of the project, which was completed in 2003 and includes flags and two howitzers dating back to World War II.
The second phase, the West Garfield County Veterans Memorial, was dedicated on Veterans Day last November. It includes more than 2,700 names of veterans from New Castle to Parachute on five stones. Some of the names date back to the Civil War.
Scalzo’s name is on a stone. He was trained in the Coast Guard and later drafted into the Army. So is that of his sister, World War II-era veteran Filomae Scalzo Zarlingo, and her late husband, Lee, who served in Africa and Italy in World War II.
The memorial effort ended up being a Rifle American Legion Kelly-Hansen Post 78 project, and Scalzo said the post’s ladies auxiliary, and particularly its president, Connie Hollenbeck, also did a lot of work. But post commander Jan Detwiler said the real credit belongs to Scalzo.
“If it wouldn’t have been for him, we wouldn’t have this. I mean, he lit a fire under us. He did a super job,” she said.