Bob Geier was walking through the Ogden Cemetery with his wife when he took a good look at the World War I Doughboy Memorial. After a brief examination he came to one conclusion: it needs some help. That was 10 years ago. After that walk, he made some phone calls to his fellow members of the Weber County Heritage Foundation and talked with some of the patrons at the Golden Hours Senior Center where he worked at the time. The Weber County Heritage Foundation was on board to work to raise funds for a complete renovation. They didn’t know how long it would take or where they would get all the funds when the process started, but they jumped in with both feet.
Donations from their Fall home tours would go to the project. The Weber Heritage Foundation asks local residents to open their doors to the public to show off the unique architecture of some of Ogden’s finest houses. The annual tradition draws large crowds of those who love to see the history of Ogden in architecture and design. Private donors were sought out and the grant-writing process also got underway.
The work would need to be done in phases because there was much work to be done. The first order of business was to restore Gold Star Drive to its original glory. The cannon balls would be restored as well as the markers near each tree going down the drive. They had been made of copper but had been mangled by snowblowers and lawnmowers over the years. A marker for each Ogden soldier that died in World War I was replaced with round granite markers. Some trees were replaced as well. That was completed and dedicated on November 11, 2011. (11-11-11). “It was a nice ceremony and that date made it more special,” Weber County Heritage Foundation President Connie Cox said.
Phase II was a much bigger undertaking – the renovation of the Doughboy itself. The soldier was a little war-wounded. He had been grafittied, spray-painted, his helmet had been stolen, his rifle had been bent. The helmet, which he originally held in his hand, was replaced by a construction helmet that was spray-painted and placed on his head. The statue had been literally shot by vandals. Plus he was standing on a cement base that was crumbling with each passing day it seemed.
The Weber Heritage Foundation decided that if it was going to be restored, it would need to be done the right way, no cutting corners. The base would be faced with granite so it would stand the test of time and engraving would be possible. His hat would be returned to his hand and he would look just as he did when he was put up at the American Legion offices on 24th Street soon after World War I.
It was apparent it would take time to raise the money needed – about $50,000 – to complete the project. As the Weber County Heritage Foundation started letting people know of their goals, Cox was impressed with people’s generosity. One older lady donated a large sum of money to honor who father who fought in World War I. “She wanted to remain anonymous, but she wanted to donate in memory of her father. She wanted to see it complete for him,” Cox said. After her donation and she saw they were still raising funds she called to donate more. Cox told her they wanted to give the whole community a chance, but she was touched by her generosity and her desire to see the iconic Ogden statue complete.
As it turns out, the timing to raise money was perfect because of the celebrations of the 100-year anniversary of the Armistice in 2018. The Daughters of the American Revolution, State of Utah and other organizations were offering grants for qualifying World War I project and this one definitely fell into that category. The Daughters of the American Revolution, The Utah State Division of State History, The American Legion, Weber County RAMP and The Utah Department of Veteran’s Affairs all offered grant monies to help with the completion of the project – businesses like Wadman Construction and other partners also pitched in. In addition, countless others volunteered their time and talents toward the project including all those that offered their homes in the home tour.
Demolition and Rebuilding
The demolition process went well and it took 18 months to complete the renovation of the statue. Many passers by noticed his absence and eagerly waited his return. The Doughboy made his grand entrance back at the cemetery in August 2018, but its official unveiling happened on November 10, 2018, to commemorate Veteran’s Day and in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
The day was perfect – beautiful sunshine with a chill in the air, a lovely November day and perfect backdrop for the Doughboy to take his spotlight in the sun. The mood was reverent but positive as the ceremony began. Cox got things started by expressing deep and heartfelt gratitude to all those in the community and state that had helped see the project to completion. “I am proud of our partnerships,” she said.
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell honored former Mayor and Major Brent Taylor who was killed just two weeks ago while deployed with the Army National Guard to Afghanistan. “It is really poignant that this happened this week, The week of the midterm elections and Veteran’s Day…This statue symbolizes the sacrifices that he and so many have made,” Caldwell said, motioning to the Doughboy. Caldwell joked that his teen daughters have been scared a time or two in the cemetery with friends and that the rumor is that the eyes of the Doughboy follow you all through the cemetery. But Caldwell said, it doesn’t have to be a “scary thing.” “We should feel those eyes upon us all the time reminding us what he stands for,” Caldwell added. He also noted that the Doughboy stands as a monument to the incredible charity of the Ogden community. “It is an amazing time for us to be in this community and for us to be reminded that we will not forget all he stands for,” Caldwell added. “We are humble and grateful for all of those including Brent Taylor that stand in harm’s way for our freedom,” Caldwell said.
Luke Cropsey, Colonel for the United States Air Force, shared the quote from Sir Edmond Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” He added to that further by saying that the women and men who fight for our freedoms challenge that ideal every day by doing something. He encouraged the crowd to figure out how we are a part of the heritage of the soldiers who fought and died for our freedoms in the Great War. He later read the names of the 77 men from Ogden who lost their lives in battle. Throughout the month, the Weber County Heritage Foundation shared many of their stories as well. Click here to find their stories.
Weber State University professor Brandon Little shared stories of some of the Weber County families left behind after their husbands and sons were killed. He talked about Ada Griswold, widow of Clayton Griswold and how she never remarried but gained her education and went about living a life of service. “Griswold is a vivid reminder of the cost of war,” Little said.
Terry Schow, on the National Executive Committee for the American Legion, explained some of the history of Ogden’s Doughboy. He told us that the American Legion bought the statue and set it up at its offices soon after World War I ended. “It was placed there all in the name of liberty,” he explained. Soon after World War II the statue was donated to Ogden City and it was placed at the Ogden City Cemetery with a special memorial. He then asked all Veterans to stand in the crowd. “May God bless you and may God bless America,” Schow said with pride.
Susan Holt, Utah State Regent with the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution also addressed the crowd. Their organization was also donors for the project. “This Doughboy monument encompasses the values of the Daughters of the American Revolution and also the state,” she said as she looked toward the beautiful statue.
It was especially touching when Ben Noid, a direct descendent of one of the World War I veteran’s was helped to the podium to read the poem, “In Flanders Fields.” The poem is inscribed on the side of the statue and special meaning in relation to the war.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place, and in the sky, The larks, still bravely singing, fly, Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the dead; short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe! To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high! If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
The Ogden Concert Band played songs from the World War I era, some war songs and military songs throughout the program. After the reading of the names of lives lost a moment of silence sobered the crowd.
Cox said she and the rest of the Weber County Heritage Foundation hopes that all who have played part plus the whole community takes a drive by and notices the majesty of the doughboy and all it signifies.
Rachel J. Trotter is a writer at Evalogue.Life, where we tell personal and family stories that inspire, and help you tell yours. She has worked as a writer since her college days over 20 years ago. She loves telling people’s stories. She lives in Ogden, Utah and is busy raising six children and loves working on family history alongside her husband, Mat.