ROSEVILLE — Bobby Woonton is only 9 years old, but he’s been lending a hand to help with the construction of something bigger than himself: a service that he’s been a part of since he was a toddler.
Bobby Woonton was out among the wheelbarrows, bricks and other tools this month, helping his father, firefighter/paramedic Bob Woonton, and others with a big project — the Roseville Fallen Heroes Memorial.
“We’re honoring our people here,” Bob Woonton said, adding that unlike military who are fighting in an overseas war, “we fight a different kind of war.”
Besides the city’s fallen heroes, Woonton said it also is in honor of those working every day in the city’s Police and Fire departments to keep the streets and its people safe.
It serves as a reminder to the community of the danger that police and firefighters face in their jobs.
“We’re normal people responding to abnormal situations,” he said.
From the ground up, the foundation for what will be an everlasting memorial to the Roseville police officers and firefighters who have given their lives in service to their community has been laid.
Construction for the Roseville Fallen Heroes Memorial in front of the Roseville Municipal Offices started a couple of weeks ago for the memorial that will be completed this year.
When speaking of cost, Woonton doesn’t jump into the monetary costs. He thinks in lives.
Woonton said the memorial costs seven lives — the number of police and firefighters the city has lost over the years.
The memorial is a culmination of about two years of fundraising efforts. The supporters raised about $20,000 through donations and fundraising efforts to pay for the monetary cost of the memorial.
“No tax money will be used in this project here,” Woonton said of the project that is sponsored by Project Art in Roseville.
Besides money raised through fundraisers, there were several groups and companies who donated to make the memorial happen.
Woonton talked about those who took part by donating or helping in other ways.
Harold Burgett, of Roseville company H. Burgett Construction, has been hard at work on the memorial.
“He’s done a lot for us,” Woonton said. “He’s been a very big help in everything.”
Roseville resident Steve Haudek has also been on hand helping with the onsite construction.
“I’ve been a Roseville resident my whole life, 44 years,” he said as he worked at the site last week.
This whole process isn’t new to Woonton because he was instrumental in the work to build the Macomb County Fallen Heroes Memorial.
“That was my baby,” he said.
Once that was accomplished, Woonton set his sights on a memorial for Roseville, a new “baby” that he wanted to see through to fruition.
The memorial will include the names of Roseville’s four police officers and three firefighters who have died in the line of duty in the city’s history. Those heroes are Patrolman William Oliver, Patrolman Lawrence Cooney, Patrolman Robert Young, Firefighter Edwin Harris Sr., Assistant Fire Chief James Mitchell, Fire Sgt. Joseph Riesterer Jr. and Patrolman Albert DeSmet.
The memorial will include a monument that will have the city logo, Police and Fire department patches and an image of Bobby Woonton, holding a helmet flanked by two firefighters.
With the time that Bob Woonton has spent working on both monuments and how Bobby Woonton has been a part of the process, as well, Bob Woonton said that he has been hard at work on these memorials since his boy was about 2 years old.
Bobby Woonton was also part of the county memorial because the image of his hand and his dad’s hand is part of that memorial.
For this memorial, the image of Bobby Woonton with the helmet and the firefighters is an image that shows that the loss is felt by children and families, Bob Woonton said.
“He just lost a mom or a dad,” Bob Woonton said of the story they are working to portray behind that image.
The police side of the monument will also have an inspirational image that they are working on, Bob Woonton explained.
Frank Blowers designed Roseville’s memorial. He also designed the Macomb County Fallen Heroes Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Freedom Hill.
The monument will include the names of the fallen police and firefighters. It will include benches and brick pavers, which can be engraved for a cost of $50 for each paver. The back of the monument will have the police and firefighter prayers. The backdrop of the monument will include a flagpole, which was donated by Dooley’s.
Fire Chief Michael Holland credited Woonton for bringing the memorial to Roseville.
“It’s so important to recognize those who gave all for us,” Holland said of the memorial.
For those wanting to take part in a memorial service to remember the county’s fallen police, firefighters and EMS workers, a service is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Macomb County Fallen Heroes Memorial in Mount Clemens.
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