Originally Published: June 29, 2018 6:03 a.m.
A lone Hotshot backed by a stylized granite-slab image of Granite Mountain is expected to soon join the cowboys and veterans that already grace the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza.
After years of work and more than 25 meetings by the board, the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Partnership has chosen a piece by Arizona sculptor Deborah Fellows to honor the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died June 30, 2013 fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire.
The 10-member volunteer partnership announced its choice this week – prior to the five-year mark of the Hotshot tragedy on Saturday, June 30.
Partnership members hope the sculpture will be in place at its designated spot on the Cortez Street side of the courthouse plaza by June 30, 2019.
Meanwhile, the group has started a fundraising effort, and members hope to raise about $500,000 to pay for the memorial.
‘TOP OF THE LIST’
With a larger-than-life Hotshot statue as the focal point, the piece will incorporate the three elements that local residents most wanted to see included: granite, alligator juniper, and bronze.
Prominently carved into the back of the granite slabs will be an image of the Prescott National Forest alligator juniper tree that has come to symbolize the Hotshots.
“When we reached out to the public in 2016, the tree was at the very top of the list,” Prescott City Councilwoman and Partnership member Alexa Scholl said of the group’s earlier solicitation of memorial ideas from area residents.
She was referring to the massive champion juniper located near Contreras Ranch Road west of Prescott that the Hotshots saved during the June 2013 Doce Fire – just days before they died fighting the Yarnell Fire.
An iconic photo shows the Hotshots standing in a pyramid formation in front of the tree they had saved. A year after the Yarnell Hill tragedy, a plaque was placed at the tree to tell the story.
The two spires of granite that will make up the sculpture’s backdrop will serve as a canvas for an etched image of the tree.
An artist’s statement by Fellows explains: “The entirety of the spires is covered with the tree to represent the enormity of the tree itself and the enormity of the loss of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.”
On the front of the granite slabs will be the names of the 19 fallen Hotshots, appearing alongside the bronze Hotshot statue.
“This memorial is about each of the 19 young men that were lost,” Fellows said.
Along with its varied views from front and back, the sculpture will also take on a different appearance depending on the time of day.
“At night, by lighting only the names etched in granite behind the bronze, the sculpture becomes a silhouette … a silhouette that is any one of the 19 men,” Fellows said.
Prior to announcing the top choice, partnership members say they made an effort to show the design to family members, as well as members of the Prescott City Council and Yavapai County Board of Supervisors.
Danny Parker, the father of fallen Hotshot Wade Parker and a member of the partnership board, said family members have been supportive. “All of the family members who have seen it really like it a lot,” he said.
While some of the families opted to wait until after the choice was made public, Parker, Scholl and Partnership Chairman Bruce Martinez say they met with as many of the parents and spouses as possible.
Parker said he especially likes the clean design of Fellows’ proposal. “I like that it’s not so busy; that it’s very simple,” he said. “And it just blends in with the courthouse plaza.”
That is a point that Scholl and Martinez also emphasize.
“We spent a lot of time talking about scale,” Scholl said, adding that it was important that the sculpture would not overwhelm the courthouse or the other pieces on the plaza.
While Parker said the process of choosing a courthouse memorial for the Hotshots was often difficult for him, he said the end result will be “an incredible tribute to the men.”
Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli agrees. “While there is no man-made memorial that could fully capture the true essence and spirit of our Granite Mountain Hotshots, I am confident that this memorial will do justice to their legacy and bring healing and hope to the families and our community,” he said.
Partnership members say they like the fact that Fellows’ design invites people in. “We wanted people to really interact with it,” Scholl said, pointing to the paver walkway and steps in the front of the piece.
Fellows said the small bench in the back also would encourage interaction. “Visitors can symbolically sit below the tree that the Hotshots saved,” she said.
The process for the courthouse plaza memorial has been underway since soon after the tragedy. Martinez, a retired Prescott Fire Chief, was asked by the Prescott Fire Department to help field calls that were flooding in with memorial ideas after the tragedy.
That led to the formation of the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Partnership, which, in early 2016, put out a call to the public for ideas on the details of the memorial.
Along the way, Yavapai County set aside space on the plaza on the Cortez Street side, north of the old courthouse well site.
The partnership later put out a request for proposals from artists, and 29 proposals were submitted. That number, in turn, was pared to five artists, who were interviewed. The partnership later chose three finalists, who were asked to make additional presentations.
“Each proposal was impressive in its design and worthy of consideration,” states a news release from the partnership. “After countless hours of review and deliberation, the Memorial Partnership selected an artist and design that is believed to be the most appropriate way to honor the Granite Mountain Hotshots and to meet the expectations of the community at the location selected.”
Fellows and her husband Fred, also a renowned artist, live Sonoita, Arizona, where they operate Fellows Studios. Her biography states that she has “extensive, life-long sculpture and memorial experience that makes her the right choice for the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial.”
The committee, which is made up of volunteers, includes: Martinez; Gayle Mabery, Clarkdale Town Manager; Parker; Scholl; Paul Roberts of Roberts and Carver PLLC; John Coleman, renowned artist; Celeste Gordon, U.S. Forest Service; Jim Holst, retired Yavapai County Administrator; Ernie Jones, Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe President; former Hotshot Pat McCarty; and Brad Fain.
The partnership is hopeful that the total $500,000 cost would be a combination of contributions from the community and from local governments.
Contribution information about is available online at: https://www.gmhsmemorial.com/ or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Granite-Mountain-Hotshots-Memorial-Partnership/