First Firefighter Memorial Dedicated to ALL unveiled in Beaumont, Texas
The State of Texas Firefighter Memorial was unveiled on Saturday April 16, 2011 in Beaumont Texas on the C.A. Pete Shelton Firefighter Memorial Plaza. The Plaza is located on the grounds of the Fire Museum of Texas at 400 Walnut Street, in downtown Beaumont. The bronze memorial is dedicated to the service of all firefighters in Texas. The Memorial was made possible by joint fundraising efforts of Beaumont Fire & Rescue, the Fire Museum of Texas and Firefighter’s Local #399.
Fund Raising Committee Members included C.A. “Pete” Shelton, Captain Ted Hillin, Retired Captain Tommy May, Captain Charlie Cox and Carol Gary, Executive Director of the Fire Museum. Fire Chief Anne Huff, Fire Marshal Jack Maddox and Beaumont Fire & Rescue Administrator Danny Cross served as Advisors on the committee. Dohn LaBiche, Architect generously donated his time to oversee the project.
The unveiling ceremony included special guest Former City of Beaumont Fire Chief and Fire Museum Founder, Pete Shelton and Becky Ames, City of Beaumont Mayor. Mayor Ames spoke on behalf of the City of Beaumont acknowledging the unique partnership of the City and the Fire Museum. “Plaza improvements and the addition of the State of Texas Firefighter Memorial compliment downtown revitalization and enhance the entrance to Downtown’s Museum District,” said Ames.
Guy Turner, President of The Texas State Association of Fire Fighters (Texas’s only professional, career fire fighters organization, representing over 15,000 fire fighter members and 169 affiliate locals including Beaumont Firefighter’s Local #399) traveled from Abilene in support of the Fire Museum mission and recent accomplishment.
The State of Texas Firemen’s & Fire Marshals’ Association has endorsed the Fire Museum as the “Official Fire Museum of Texas,” since 1986. David Wade, 2nd Vice President of the Gulf Coast Region of SFFMA attended the unveiling ceremony and spoke in support of the importance of the memorial. “April 16, 2011 was appropriately chosen for the Memorial unveiling in memory of the firefighters who lost lives in the Texas City explosion in 1947,” said Wade.
The memorial is the first of its kind to honor all present, past and fallen firefighters of Texas. All firefighters either paid professionals, volunteer servicemen and woman, instructors or firefighters trained in the petrochemical industry are recognized for their dedication to service and the willingness to put others before themselves in the community.
Captain Ted Hillin, Beaumont Fire & Rescue was Master of the Ceremony. “It has been a challenging three years for fundraising, we are excited it is finally here and paid for in full,” said Hillin. “The project was a success because people from all over the state got behind the project. “Donors saw the need to recognize the dedication of firefighters and we appreciate their support.”
The Plaza on the grounds of the Fire Museum of Texas also includes brick pavers from fire departments around the state, brick pavers naming deceased and fallen firefighters from across the state of Texas, a memorial to the fallen New York Firefighters of September 11, 2001, and a 24 foot Dalmatian spotted fire hydrant donated by Walt Disney in 1999 and a new 30x40 Pavilion. The total investment for Plaza improvements totals approximately $260,000.
Fundraising began in April 2008 with a 36 month goal of completion. A majority of the funds were raised by support of the City of Beaumont and community partners including Industrial Safety Training Council, the Beaumont Emergency Services Complex and Quality Mat. In addition to accepting donations from generous corporations and individuals the Fire Museum worked with Beaumont Fire & Rescue to raise the funds hosting special events. Fundraising included two Golf Tournaments and three Fire Prevention Festivals featuring Pancakes on the Plaza with Cooks 2 Dozen Plus. Firefighter Appreciation Days at Chili’s and Baskin Robbins also helped raise funds.
The Memorial's two bronze firefighter sculptures which stand over 6' tall and weigh 450-500 pounds are mounted atop an 18" black granite pedestal. Ron Petitt, Beaumont native, is the artist that designed the Memorial and sculpted the lifelike figures in his studio in Loveland, Colorado. The Memorial was cast at a Foundry near his home, and transported to Beaumont for installation.
"It has been an amazing privilege to be involved with a Memorial that will be a constant reminder of the commitment and sacrifices that our firefighters make everyday to the communities that they serve,” said Ron Petitt. Broussard's Mortuary and Transit Mix donated materials for the completion of the Memorial's foundation and walkways. Additional benches were provided by the City of Beaumont.
The Fire Museum of Texas opened in 1986 The Museum is visited annually by over 10,000 individuals from all over the world. Operating as a 501(c)(3) the Museum is managed by a Board of Directors through a partnership with the City of Beaumont. The Museum is recognized as one of Texas's Best FREE places for individuals, groups and families to visit. The Museum is open Monday-Friday from 8:00 am until 4:30 p.m. Guided group tours are welcome with reservations. Donations to the Museum can be mailed to 400 Walnut Street, Beaumont, Texas 77701. For additional information visit www.firemuseumoftexas.org