KENDALLVILLE — On the Fourth of July, downtown Avilla will be getting a new memorial dedicated to local first responders.
Expect a little pomp too, with a community gathering, an official unveiling and probably some fireworks, too.
On Friday, former Noble County Republican chairman and local attorney Seth Tipton gave a sneak peek of the memorial in progress, a 12-foot tall metal fabrication featuring police, fire and EMS workers; an Avilla Fire Department Fire Truck and Parkview Health’s Samaritan air ambulance; the Pledge of Allegiance and an inspirational Bible quote.
The sizable metal memorial is being finished up by Kammerer Design and Fabrication in Kendallville, where designer Brock Shultz helped bring Tipton’s vision to reality.
Tipton said he started forming the idea about a year ago for a new community monument and while he was originally thinking a piece honoring military service — like one Kammerer made that is on display in Auburn — but then shifted toward local first responders.
That decision started taking shape even before COVID-19 started spreading in Indiana and definitely before recent demonstration over police that have taken root nationally.
But the last few months and the challenges that have arisen have shown that these local servants are deserving of recognition, Tipton said.
“It’s intended to be a thank you and a tribute. It’s a “Let’s go get ‘em” as we rebuild from this,” Tipton said. “These people showed up every day. We need that kind of caring and compassion these people have.”
Tipton connected with Shultz, a friend of his who is also a designer for the metal fabrication shop on Kammerer Road just a little northeast of Kendallville’s city limits. Tipton came in with the idea but not specific design — joking he can’t draw a stick figure — and that’s where Shultz took off with it.
Kammerer is no stranger to design-build projects. Unlike some companies that specialize in a few specific items or jobs for a certain type of industry, Shultz said at Kammerer they can and do fabricate about “anything and everything” when it comes to metal work. If you come in with an idea and some specifications, they can create it.
Based off Tipton’s rough descriptions of what he was looking for, Shultz designed the monument, which features three larger-than-life-sized first responders — firefighter, police officer and paramedic — in the garb of their job. Each figure stands above an emblem representing their line of work.
Then, to the right side of the monument, a fire truck based on a local Avilla ladder truck has its ladder extended up toward the sky, topped with an American flag. Lastly the regional Samaritan rescue helicopter also flies in the air over the fire truck.
“The people on it are actually family members of mine,” Shultz said, noting they’re all hard-working public servants who have devoted their careers to their communities. “It’s a tribute to them, trying to pay them back.”
On Friday, during the sneak peek at Kammerer, all of the metal pieces have been cut in the shop and welded together on top of a base that will also contain a Bible quote — Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” — and the text of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Over the next week, the monument will get its finishing paint and decal work and be moved to the Tipton Law Group office at the intersection of Main and Albion streets in Avilla for its July 4 unveiling.
Shultz said between the design, cutting, prep work, assembly, painting and finishing, about 20 different people will each have had a hand in the production.
Kammerer itself is on the verge of growing, adding onto its facility to widen out its available shop space, as Shultz said the amount and size of work has just outgrown their current building. And while monument building probably won’t be a major component of the business day-to-day, Shultz said seeing this project come to life has been exciting.
“For this to be my design and my thought process ... it’s crazy, just how emotional (Tipton) is getting with it,” Shultz said.
Tipton said as he’s shown the concept to local first responders and law enforcement, the response has been good, with many themselves getting a bit emotional at the recognition.
The monument is timely, Tipton said, to recognize and support the people who have been on the front lines of COVID-19 and those who have come under attack amid ongoing national protests.
As an attorney with significant criminal defense experience, Tipton has butted heads with police, and challenged their work and behavior in the interest of his clients. But Tipton said he believes that these local servants do deserve recognition and not scorn, as people who take on a tough job without a lot of riches or respect to go with it sometimes.
“I see the worst. I’ve seen police misbehavior. It happens. But on the flip side, I get to see the best,” he said, noting he’s heartened in cases when, for example, he’ll talk to a client busted for a crime but who tells him the officer involved was kind, respectful and professional.
First responders should be celebrated, and they will be, on July 4.
At dusk, Tipton said they’re planning to have an official unveiling of the finished monument, probably have a group prayer and shoot off some fireworks. First responders from around the region have been invited and Tipton said he’s hopeful several will show up.
He’s also hopeful that, at the unveiling, those first responders will hear “the loudest applause these guys have ever heard.”
If you want a look at the monument, well, you’ll have to wait for the unveiling.
If you want a sneak peek — Tipton and Kammerer staff asked The News Sun not to photograph the work-in-progress piece during Friday’s visit — you can see some snapshots and video previews on the Kendallville Life of Tipton Law Group Facebook pages.
If you can’t make the July 4 event, you’ll be able to check out the memorial any time afterward in downtown Avilla at the Tipton Law Group office, 104 S. Main St.