The North Bend Eagle


Vet Park addition salutes the fallen

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 5/2/12

There is a new statue at the North Bend-Morse Bluff Veterans’ Memorial Park. This one is just a little different from the others, with a little different story.

Vet statueThe newest statue at the Veterans' Memorial Park along Highway 30 has a story.

Sylvia Slavik of North Bend gave the money in memory of her husband, Henry, and in honor of her son, Ed, who served in the Navy in 1958-59, and in honor of her special birthday July 20.

“I’ll be 100 years old so I’d better do something for everyone before I pass away,” Sylvia said.

Ed Salvik said they were “very, very happy” with the statue sculpted by Fred Hoppe of Columbus. Hoppe also made the other four statues in the park.

Ed, 73, said his mom had the idea in December and they are pleased that it will be in place for Memorial Day and this year’s Old Settlers.

“They brought it over to mom’s house when they first brought it to
town,” Ed said. “It’s pretty impressive.”

The Slaviks specifically wanted the statue placed on the east side of
the Veterans’ Park, so it will be easy to see from the highway.

This statue represents the story of Ralph Groten, one of four soldiers who became best friends when they attended airborne school at Ft. Benning, Georgia, during World War II. They sat side-by-side as their airplane flew across the English Channel to Normandy for the D-Day jump. Three days later, when the fighting slowed down, Groten started looking for his buddies. He told Hoppe he must have knelt over 50 graves, looking at the dog tags on each rifle marking the graves. He found graves for all three of his buddies. The statue shows the anguish on his face as he reaches for yet another dog tag.

Hoppe said it would cost the family $80 to have a combat fatality shipped home for burial during World War II. One of the three deceased friends, Howard Dolan, was shipped home and his dog tags returned to his family. Dolan’s dog tag numbers are the ones on the statue in the North Bend park. His date of death was June 6, 1944. Hoppe said the 17th Airborne suffered twice a many fatalities as the more well known 82nd and 101st airborne divisions.

Hoppe said this is the second casting of this statue he has done, the other stands at the entry gate of Fort Benning.

“The sculpture is a tribute to all the men and women who fought and died for our freedom,” Hoppe said.

Butch Ott, one of the driving forces behind creating the Veteran’s Park, said the new statue is a great addition.

“The other statues salute the living, the veterans,” Ott said. “This one commemorates the dead.”

Hoppe said the Slaviks asked for something for the North Bend Veteran’s Park, and this one came to mind.

“Artistically, this statue flows with the park,” Hoppe said. “It doesn’t take away from other pieces because it is low. It’s real nice of the Slaviks to donate this.”

Sylvia’s family and the Hoppes go way back. Both families are from the Richland area and Sylvia’s brothers were friends with Hoppe’s father and uncles. Henry Slavik also knew the Hoppes in is youth.

The statue’s trip to North Bend followed a similar route as did the park’s central statue, the first statue to arrive. Hoppe sculpted it then sent it to a foundry in Oregon to have it cast in bronze. Once it was ready, Doug Wamberg and Dale Kinney drove out to Oregon and picked it up, leaving on Tuesday and returning on Saturday, April 21. As it arrived in town, Wamberg and Kinney took it by the Slavik home for them to get their first look at it.

The statue is now being set in place with a short sidewalk from the center leading to two plaques, one will tell the statue story and one will honor the Slaviks. The statue will also be lit up.

Hoppe said he as been all over the United States and the North Bend park is one of the prettiest he sees.

“It is put together so well, “ Hoppe said. “It’s such a beautiful park.”

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