By Mike Hazlip—
For decades, a stone memorial has stood silently in Rusch Park, with a bronze plaque bearing the names of 272 Citrus Heights residents.
Documents provided to The Sentinel by Citrus Heights Historical Society President Larry Fritz show the monument was originally completed in 1948, just a few years after the end of the second world war. The names honor residents who either died or served in World War II, but it wasn’t originally placed in Rusch Park.
Although the memorial does not distinguish between those who served and those who died, the 272 people listed there represent a significant percentage of the population in Citrus Heights during the war period. At the time, only about 300 students attended San Juan High School, and a 1950 photograph of a city signpost shows the total population of Citrus Heights was 5,000.
Most of the names listed are men who served, but about 10 Citrus Heights women from the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) and Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) are also commemorated on the memorial.
Several well-known Citrus Heights families are represented on the plaque, with four members of the Van Maren family appearing on the list, as well as Theodore C. Mitchell, after whom the 260-home Mitchell Village development is named after. Mitchell is believed to be the longest living resident of Citrus Heights, and was recognized by the city as such in 2017.
The memorial was originally installed in 1948 and located on land largely donated by pioneer businessman William Cobb at the corner of Sylvan Road and Community Drive as part of a library at that location, documents show. Today, that intersection is home to the Sylvan Community Center and the Veterans Center across the street.
The library relocated to what is now the Grand Oaks shopping center in the late 1960s, Fritz said. The memorial was then “in hibernation” for a few years until it resurfaced at Rusch Park.
A re-dedication of the memorial was held at Rusch Park in 1976, records show. It included participation from Citrus Heights Post 637, Boy Scout Troop 82, VFW Post 5991, the Chamber of Commerce, and what was then the Citrus Heights Recreation and Park District. Citrus Heights Irrigation District also participated in the event.
Adjacent to the memorial is a rose garden, donated by the Rose Society, which planted 76 rose bushes to symbolize the Spirit of 76, according to an archived document titled “A Century of History,” by resident Roeley Giusti. Roses still surround the monument at Rusch Park today. A plaque at the monument says the first rose bushes were planted in 1963 in memory of Dean M. Brown of the Navy reserves.
More than 2,000 miles away, another memorial from another war bears the names of seven Citrus Heights residents. Those names are etched in the black granite walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. The names listed are Jerry Keith Bobbitt, Daniel Charles Fowler, Stephen Michael Fry, Donald Robert Glass, Larrie Jack Gotcher, Charles Robert James, and Richard James Willett.
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