About the Wisconsin State Firefighters Memorial, Inc.
The Wisconsin State Firefighters Memorial, Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit charity organization dedicated to preserving the memory of firefighters who have died in the line of duty. This challenging task was started in 1994 by seven members of the Fire Service from central Wisconsin. The WSFM founding members were Tom Anderson, Peter Augustyniak, James Gignac, Carroll Knutson, Rick Moscinski, Mitch Waite and Ken Zarecki. Together they laid out plans to build a memorial park to honor firefighters for their service.
On April 16, 1996 then Governor Tommy G. Thompson signed into law, legislation designating Wisconsin Rapids as the site of the Wisconsin State Firefighters Memorial. "Wisconsin firefighters put their lives on the line every time they battle a blaze and it is only fitting that we honor those who were lost in the line of duty," Gov. Thompson said. "The State Firefighters Memorial is a tremendous project that will make sure we never forget the courage, bravery and dedication of our firefighters. And Wisconsin Rapids is an ideal location for the memorial because of its central location in the state."
With the city chosen, the Wisconsin State Firefighters Memorial Board of Directors set about finding a suitable existing park in the city to house the memorial. They placed the utmost importance on peaceful locations without high traffic or an industrial image. After a careful examination of the sites in the area, the memorial committee selected Ben Hansen Park on the southwest side of the city.
The park covers 7.5 acres located along the west side of the Wisconsin River, providing the peaceful and somber atmosphere the memorial requires. The park's existing tall trees and rolling terrain add greatly to the tranquility and serenity of the location, making it the perfect place for the memorial.
As you enter the Park along the north walkway, you will find the gazebo. Benches placed in the shade of the gazebo provide a peaceful setting for visitors to stop and rest while taking in a panoramic view of the entire Memorial Park. The gazebo is frequently used during the summer months as a venue for outdoor weddings.
Concrete park benches are also located along the walkway. The walkways and many of the park benches are illuminated at night by lamp posts making the view of the park in the evening hours a pleasurable experience.
Continuing along the walkway you will come across the centerpiece of the Memorial Park. It is the life-sized bronze statue depicting two firefighting personnel coming the the aid of a fallen crew member. This statue expresses the true meaning of brotherhood and how the WSFM has chosen to remember our fallen fire service members. The statue is flanked by the Memorial Wall.
The Memorial Wall is made up of six black marble plates engraved with the names of those firefighters from Wisconsin who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Currently there are 268 names of our fallen brothers and sisters engraved on the wall.
Proceeding along the walkway south of the Memorial Wall is the Final Alarm Bell Tower. The bell tower houses the fire bell which originally hung at the headquarters of the Superior Fire Department in 1892. The bell was donated to the WSFM by the "Old Fire House" located in Superior, WI.
The bell tower was designed and engineered by AG Architecture from Wauwatosa, WI. The metal truss system was constructed by Jack's Welding & Fabricating of North Lake, WI and donated to the WSFM thanks to the efforts of the North Lake Volunteer Fire Department. The bronze plaque located beneath the bell explains the significance of the bell ceremony conducted during the annual Final Alarm Ceremony. Also included is a dedication plaque in memory of Assistant Chief Michael Kilpatrick of the North Lake Volunteer F.D. and all firefighters who have died in the line-of-duty. The Memorial Wall and the Memorial Bell Tower serve to remind us of the sacrifices made by our fellow Firefighters.
Leaving the Bell Tower and continuing along the south walkway you will cross the footbridge. This bridge aids in making the Memorial Park accessable to all visitors regardless of whether or not they are physically handicapped. The entire park was constructed with accessability for all visitors in mind.
Near the south entrance of the Park is the WSFM Visitor Center. It is simular in design to a early 1900's firehouse and it displays articles meant to aid in telling the story of our fallen heros. The building also houses restrooms and a water fountain for the benefit of visitors to the park.
Granite legacy stones line the walkways at various areas throughout the park. They provide a means of honoring loved ones or showing support for the Memorial Park. They are available for purchase and come in two sizes with custom engraving available.