Celebrating Central Oregon’s pioneering spirits

You may have been jogging down one of the many trails by the Deschutes River or playing around with your dog on the lawn at the Les Schwab Amphitheater when you noticed the shiny bronze squares populating the small light posts on the walking paths. On closer inspection you discover it’s not just any square, but a plaque. And not just any plaque, a memorial plaque that is dedicated to someone connected to the history of Central Oregon.

The first plaque came in 2003 and was dedicated to Bert Hagen, a lumber mill employee of Brooks-Scanlon for roughly 40 years. He also was active with the Bend Chamber of Commerce and served more than a decade on the Bend-La Pine School Board. Hagen’s plaque was affixed to a bench, so his family could come “sit with him” when they visited the area. It soon dawned on people who also had relatives that worked at the mill that they wanted a plaque too, but we didn’t have a need for that many benches. Thus the memorial plaques took flight and we began installing them on the cement bollards that illuminate the walking paths.

More than 80 plaques have since been created, produced and installed in the Old Mill District along the east and west banks of the Deschutes River. Some come across as traditional, with dates of birth and death and a quick description. Others are poetic, and some offer a more humorous tone. They acknowledge both the titans of the region, such as Les Schwab, but also those with less name recognition but just as much influence in their time. For some who have lost a loved one they function in the role traditionally held by a gravestone in a cemetery and are considered less somber. Many have annual gatherings by their plaque and find creative ways to celebrate the life of their loved one by staying connected with their memories.

We are working diligently and continuously on having a memorial plaque directory available for those who want to know more about the people behind the bronze squares. The directory will include photos and history, as well as contact information for those who are interested in creating a plaque of their own. If you have questions, please contact Sharon at William Smith Properties at 541-382-6691 or email info@theoldmill.com