“To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward.” ~Margaret Barber, The Roadmender
A memorial is an object which serves as a focus for remembering an historic event or a person who has died. War memorials commemorating those who have fought in wars are common. Types of memorials include monuments, sculptures, statues, even parks and highways. Gravestones are a form of memorial. Roadside memorials, or descansos as they are called in the Southwest, are often placed on the side of the road by family members and loved ones of people who have died in car accidents.
1. 9-11 Memorial, Winslow – The 9-11 Remembrance Garden in Winslow just south of I-40 consists of two rusted steel girders from the World Trade Center towers, a flag that was flown at the Pentagon, and a commemorative bronze plaque. The 14- and 15-foot beams are the largest pieces given to any community in the nation by the City of New York. As we were passing through Winslow on a Memorial Day weekend, this was a totally unexpected, emotionally stirring, and quite fitting monument to discover. Being able to see and touch a piece of the actual World Trade Center gives you shivers up and down your spine. This simple gesture is much more meaningful than viewing the abstract, politically-charged 9-11 Memorial that was erected amid great controversy at the State Capitol. But while the little town of Winslow has a better 9-11 memorial than the State of Arizona, the sad part is that hardly anyone knows about it! The 9-11 Remembrance Garden is located on the corner of a vacant lot at East 3rd Street and Transcon Lane, right across from the railroad tracks. (From I-40, take exit 255.)
2. Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, Phoenix – Across the street from the Arizona State Capitol in downtown Phoenix, there are a number of memorials honoring prominent figures in Arizona history as well as memorializing significant wars and other events that have had an impact on the state. Much like the National Mall on which it is loosely based, the Legislative Governmental Mall is as an open-air public space featuring monuments, memorials and gardens. Some of these monuments were erected prior to the inception of the Plaza, such as the mast and anchor of the USS Arizona which was dedicated over a year earlier on December 7, 1976. The memorial plaza was established on March 9, 1978 by the Arizona Legislature in honor of Governor Wesley Bolin, who had died a mere 5 days previously on March 4. While the plaza exists only as a part of the Mall, the terms are commonly used interchangeably. The mall includes memorials and monuments for: Wesley Bolin; Father Kino; Bushmasters; Arizona Pioneer Women; Ten Commandments; Civilian Conservation Corps; 4th Marine Division, World War II; Law Enforcement; World War I; Confederate Troops: Jewish War Veterans: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Armenian Martyrs; Desert Storm; American Merchant Seaman; Father Braun; Arizona Peace Officers; Korean War; USS Arizona; Vietnam Veterans; Ernest W. McFarland; Purple Heart; Arizona Workers; Arizona Crime Victims; Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Division, and 9-11.
3. National Memorial Cemetery, Phoenix – As of 2003, there were 18 monuments and memorials at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, most arranged along a memorial walkway. Two unique memorials at the cemetery are the Eternal Flame monument, which is pyramidal in shape, and the World War II Submarine Torpedo monument. Open daily from sunrise to sunset, the National Memorial Cemetery is located at the corner of Cave Creek and Pinnacle Peak Roads. Entrance is off Pinnacle Peak.
4. Coronado National Memorial – Near Sierra Vista is a national memorial commemorating the first organized expedition into the Southwest. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s 1540-42 expedition entered what is now Arizona in the valley east of Coronado National Memorial. This National Park Service memorial interprets the significance of historical events related to the Spanish Entrada, and it also interprets the natural environment in this area where the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts meet.
5. Buckey O’Neill Roughrider Memorial, Prescott – In 1898, war broke out between the U.S. and Spain. William Owen “Buckey” O’Neill joined Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and became a troop Captain. Along with Alexander Brodie and James McClintock, he wanted to make an entire regiment of Arizona Cowboys. Eventually though, only three troops were authorized. On July 1, 1898, Buckey O’Neill was killed in action. On July 3, 1907, a memorial was dedicated to O’Neill and the other Rough Riders in Prescott. This heroic-sized bronze statue of a Rough Rider on horseback can be seen in the Yavapai County courthouse square. It was created by Solon H. Borglum, brother of Gutzon Borglum who designed Mount Rushmore.
6. Hi Jolly Memorial, Quartzite – A pyramid with a camel on top honors Hadji Ali, or Hi Jolly as he was commonly called. He came to Arizona in 1856 with the U.S. Army Camel Corps and later remained in the desert southwest as a prospector, scout, and courier. Hi Jolly died in December of 1902 in what in now known as Quartzsite. At that time the town was called Tyson’s Well. Hi Jolly’s grave became the beginning of Quartzite’s historic pioneer cemetery.
7. Poston Butte, Florence – Charles Poston (1825-1902) is known as the “Father of Arizona” and was the first elected delegate to Congress from the Arizona Territory. He was in charge of the United States land office at Florence from July 1877 until June 1879. Poston is buried inside a rock pyramid on Poston Butte, formerly known as Primrose Hill. Poston had planned to one day build a Temple to the Sun on that spot. Going north on State Route 79, just after you cross the Gila River, there is a Historical Marker giving information about the pyramid on top of Poston Butte.
8. Governor Hunt’s Tomb, Phoenix – George W. P. Hunt (1859-1934) was Arizona’s first governor and served a record seven terms. In 1925, Governor George W.P. Hunt had led a ceremony relocating Charles Poston’s remains from a pauper’s grave to a pyramid-shaped tomb on Primrose Hill near Florence. When Hunt died, he asked that he buried under a pyramid in the Valley of the Sun. His tomb is a white pyramid on top of a hill in Papago Park. The tomb can be seen from the grounds of the Phoenix Zoo and other places within the park. From the tomb, one can enjoy a panoramic view of the Valley.
9. Navajo Veterans Memorial – The Navajo Nation built the Veterans Memorial in the Tribal Park at the base of Window Rock to honor the many Navajos who have served in the U.S. Military, including the famous Navajo Code Talkers. During World War II, the Code Talkers used their Navajo language to create a code that was never broken by the enemy. The park has a circular path outlining the four cardinal directions and sixteen pillars with the names of war veterans. The Memorial is located adjacent to the Navajo Nation Council Chambers.
10. Tom Mix Memorial, Florence – Tom Mix was a famous silent-era Hollywood movie cowboy, and a great horseman in real life who once owned a ranch near Prescott. On the afternoon of October 12, 1940 the 60-year-old actor was driving his 1937 Cord Phaeton convertible through the desert between Tucson and Phoenix on two-lane U.S. Highway 80. Accounts vary as to whether Mix was speeding, or what role alcohol consumption may have played. But when he came upon construction barriers at a bridge that had been washed away by a recent flash flood, he was unable to stop in time. He slammed on his brakes as his car went into the gully. A large aluminum suitcase that was on the seat behind him flew forward and struck Mix in the back of the head, breaking his neck and killing him almost instantly. The site of his death is located on what is now State Route 79. The gully was renamed Tom Mix Wash as a makeshift memorial. Seven years later the Pinal County Historical Society erected a monument at the site. It’s a mortared, cobblestone pile topped with a two-foot-tall black iron silhouette of a saddled but riderless horse, its head bowed. The plaque reads: “Jan. 6, 1880-Oct. 12, 1940 In Memory Of TOM MIX Whose spirit left his body on this spot, and whose characterization and portrayals in life served to better fix memories of the Old West in the minds of living men.” The Tom Mix Memorial is located approximately 20 miles south of Florence.
Honorable Mention: Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway – Believe it or not, State Route 80 between Bisbee and Benson (running north and south of Tombstone) is called the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway. At the time of the Civil War, many towns in southern Arizona had confederate leanings. Before the Civil War, Davis had been a congressman, senator, secretary of war and presidential advisor. In all of these capacities he exhibited a strong interest in opening up the west, which included securing funding for surveys of wagon roads and railroads. He also proposed the use of camels by the army in the Southwest. In the early 20th century, the ladies of the United Daughters of the Confederacy lobbied for a southern coast-to-coast highway to honor the Confederate president, but their idea never really caught on. They did erect a Jefferson Davis Highway Marker on the Arizona-New Mexico border, although that marker is now 20 miles east off Exit 20A (I-10) at the Lordsburg New Mexico Visitors Center. There is another Jefferson Davis Highway marker at a rest area on I-8 soon after entering California coming from Arizona.