Remembering the fallen

PONDEROSA HIGH SCHOOL teacher Linda Griffiths-Gish stands inside the school’s memorial honoring students who died serving their country. Right now the memorial only has one plaque — dedicated to Mathew Taylor, who died in 2007. The military mom — her son Joshua Griffiths, an Army sergeant, will be going back to the Middle East next year — said she doesn’t want to see any more plaques. Cameron Park Life photo by Shelly Thorene

Ponderosa High School unveils memorial

A single, solemn plaque placed in a quiet nook next to Ponderosa’s football field will remind all who walk by that a life was lost.

And the honor to SPC Mathew Taylor, a 2004 Ponderosa graduate who died in September 2007 after suffering severe injuries in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Afghanistan, is the only plaque military mom and teacher Linda Griffiths-Gish wants to see at the Ponderosa High School Memorial built to honor alumni who died serving their country.

For the last six months Griffiths-Gish has made the memorial her mission and on Friday, Nov. 4, during halftime at the junior varsity football game (about 5:45 p.m.), all the work she and countless other volunteers have put into the project will be recognized during a dedication ceremony.

“It really has been humbling … seeing people as dedicated as they have been to this project,” Griffiths-Gish said.

Major General Doug Stone will preside over the event, which will also feature the Marine Color Guard and Ponderosa band members.

Patty Taylor, Mathew’s mother, will attend.

“It means a lot to me to keep my son’s name alive,” Taylor said, adding that she’d like to see a place in the memorial dedicated to all the students who serve, “not just the ones we’ve lost.”

The memorial began with the partnership between former Ponderosa High Principal Chris Moore and the Fallen Warriors Memorial group, which is dedicated to preserving the memory of servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. The group offers Ponderosa students a scholarship in Mathew Taylor’s name.

The Fallen Warriors Memorial group had completed a memorial at Oak Ridge High School, which lost alum Brad Shuder in 2004, and Moore wanted Ponderosa to have a memorial to honor Taylor and offer the community a place to reflect. Moore selected the location and set up meetings where parents, students and other residents voiced their ideas.

“I wanted this to not just be my project,” Moore explained. “It really was a community project and it’s great to see it done.”

To get to this final stage, Moore, Griffiths-Gish, John Cordova with the Fallen Warriors Memorial and Dusty Deryck, 1st Vice Commander for American Legion’s District 7, reached out to local businesses for support — money and materials. Bob Diesel with Anova Architects “polished” the design; Carter Kelly donated the concrete; Mark Foltz with Otto Construction, who is also the project manager of the El Dorado Hills Veterans Memorial, put together the construction crew.

Foltz said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help build this memorial.

“My family has a long history of vets including my dad, uncle and grandfather,” he explained. “I am very thankful for the blessed life that I lead and owe that in large part to the men and women who have served and died defending it.”

Because businesses stepped up and donated the materials and labor (with some help from Pondo’s football players), and private donations covered other expenses, Moore said he didn’t know what it cost to build Ponderosa’s memorial.

Griffiths-Gish put it this way: “It did not cost Ponderosa one cent. The only thing we shelled out money for is $50 worth of pizza. I think that’s a very good deal.”

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Posted by on Oct 28 2011.
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2 Comments for “Remembering the fallen”

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  1. I am pleased to know that this memorial is at last completed. As a community we should NEVER forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our Freedom.

  2. The Military Family Support Group is pleased to count Linda Griffiths-Gish as one of our members and the group is proud of Linda’s dedication to this project! Gold Star Mom, Patty Taylor, is one of the strongest women we know and it is wonderful to have this memorial for her son, Mathew, who made the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation & the freedoms we enjoy. Here’s to no more plaques at this memorial!
    Julie Leconte,
    Military Family Support Group

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