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Rotary clubs plan tribute to public safety workers
Former Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper, left, former Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic, center, and Rotary Club of Hall County member Lona Pope are working to have a monument to public safety personnel installed in Gainesville’s Roosevelt Square.

Local Rotary Clubs have united to design and construct a monument to public safety personnel in Gainesville’s Roosevelt Square, with a May 2015 completion date set.

“We’ve never really said thank you,” said Lona Pope, chairwoman of the Rotary committee coordinating the design, fundraising and other aspects for the monument.

The Rotary Club of Hall County held a meeting Tuesday at the Recess Southern Gastro-pub downtown to update its members on the project. In conjunction with the Rotary Club of Gainesville and Rotary Club of South Hall, the club set out about two years ago to find a way to honor police, firefighters, emergency responders and other public safety personnel across the county.

They settled on a granite monument modeled on memorials to fallen soldiers and first responders. But Rotary members said the monument was a tribute, rather than a memorial, to all who wear a badge.

Former Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic told Rotary members the tribute would “honor those who serve on a daily basis.”

The monument is expected to cost between $40,000 and $45,000, according to Pope. It will include an inscription of the Rotary motto, “Service Above Self,” as well as a medallion.

The monument also will likely incorporate a fountain or flowing water of some kind, reminiscent of memorials dedicated to the victims of 9/11. Others aspects of the design, including the size of the monument, remain to be determined.

A brick walkway will be constructed leading up to the monument, and the Rotary clubs hope to sell individual bricks that can be purchased as a tribute to fallen public safety officers. Additionally, the clubs hope to install eight benches around the monument, which will be purchased with corporate sponsorships. They hope this amenity will help attract visitors.

The city of Gainesville donated the land for the monument and has committed to maintaining it. The monument is proposed to be unveiled in early May 2015 to coincide with National Public Safety Week.

Former Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper told Rotary members he was humbled by the proposed monument, reflecting the general attitude of many public safety personnel who enter their professions as a sort of calling.

“They don’t really consider themselves heroes,” Hooper said.