Dozens of UA Employees Took USS Arizona Mall Memorial From Concept to Dedication
With extensive concept planning, multiple redesigns and the eventual laying of about 25,000 red bricks, the setting of several dozens of feet of panels, and the shaping of 1,177 bronze medallions, it should have taken many more months to design and install the USS Arizona Mall Memorial.
But thanks to the UA team behind the project – from conception to Sunday's dedication – everything came together to create a well-crafted memorial that is a tribute to those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor, and an impressive example of what can be accomplished through collaboration among UA teams and employees.
"This is something I will remember long after I retire," said Chris Kopach, assistant vice president of Facilities Management.
He credited the "gifted and skilled" employees behind the effort. "We were excited and proud to be associated with this project, and it has been an outstanding project," he said.
The memorial, created to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, consists of bronze medallions displaying the name, rank and home state of each of the 1,177 sailors and Marines who died on the ship, and a dark red rubberized track lining the UA Mall, creating a full-scale outline of the ship's deck. The memorial was dedicated Sunday during a ceremony attended by more than 2,000 people.
The project was initiated by Tucsonan Bill Westcott, whose namesake uncle died on the USS Arizona. He worked with David Carter, who conceived the idea, and Chuck Albanese, retired dean and professor of the UA College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, to bring the idea to the UA.
Bob Smith, UA vice president for University Planning, Design and Operations, shared the idea with UA President Ann Weaver Hart and other senior leaders. Eventually, Westcott, Carter and Albanese raised $175,000 in private donations to fund the project.
UA alumnus Andy Harris donated the rubberized track lining, which is dark red to reflect the traditional red brick found across the UA campus. Facilities Management's superintendent of grounds, Matthew Anderson, who has a master's degree in turf management, facilitated the laying of the track material. Leonard Escalante, who supervises masons in Facilities Management, oversaw the laying of the track and the tens of thousands of bricks.
At the Paint/Sign Shop, supervisor Ron Ramsey and his team installed the medallions and fabricated the sign for the memorial. Joel Long Sr., senior lead electrician, and others also were involved with the project, as were Bill Free, supervisor of FM's irrigation specialists, and other grounds specialists who had to reroute irrigation lines. Carter, a UA alumnus and the project designer, worked work Facilities Management to ensure that all details related to the project were understood, Kopach said.
"It was a total team effort," Kopach said, adding that the construction involved nearly 80 employees. "I could not be more proud of the Facilities Management team. We had a tight window to complete it, but we had no doubt that the staff was up to the challenge."
Steve Mikitish, metal technologies shop supervisor, and UA welder James Parker led the handcrafted shaping of the bronze and polishing of the medallions.
"Look at the fine craftsmanship: all the detail on the brick, the cutting of corners, the signage and the sign location, the medallions," Kopach said. "The Facilities Management staff members involved with this project are very gifted."
Kopach also gave his appreciation to collaborators, such as Cheryl Plummer, campus use coordinator, and Kathy Adams Riester, associate dean of students and director of the Parents and Family Association.
"We were dealing with tight time frames, and I mean extremely tight timeframes involving a lot of different players," Kopach said. "With the construction schedule, we also needed to adjust scheduling with Mall events, so there was a lot of coordination and planning involved. Lots of logistics and timeline coordinating."
Comparing the finished memorial with its earlier design, Westcott said the project "got bigger and more important in an emotional way. It's available to all of Tucson and Southern Arizona. It's something that works. You need to be drawn in (by a memorial), and this does it."
For Albanese, the memorial connects with his long-standing connection to the UA – his professional home – and his work as an architect.
"My feeling about the project relates to the fact that I spent 40 years on this campus – my entire career – and it has interwoven so many aspects of my life," said Albanese who began teaching at the UA at the age of 26.
It was even more personal because Albanese was on a path toward military service. In college, he was in military training for a career with the Navy, but opted to pursue architecture instead.
"I completed my training with friends who did not return from Vietnam," Albanese said, adding that he hopes that the new memorial will have meaning for all people, regardless of whether they wear a uniform. "The presence of the memorial will certainly have a real impact. It may give pause or thought that we are here because of them. That's the hope."