Connie Van Onselder has a hard time visiting the grave of her late husband, Raleigh Police Det. Paul Hale, who was shot in 1997 while on duty.
“It is not what I want to remember, but I would relish a place that I could go to honor him – a peaceful, uplifting, yet respectful, place of honor,” Van Onselder wrote in a letter to the Raleigh City Council.
The detective’s widow said she’s happy with designs approved Tuesday for the Raleigh Police Memorial at city hall. Organizers had said they wanted something unique from architect Thomas Sayre – a fitting tribute to Hale and seven others.
“We decided early on we did not want something that looked like a tombstone,” said Dennis Lane, a retired Raleigh police major and president of the Raleigh Police Memorial Foundation. “We didn’t want statues that only represented one segment of our police population.”
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The Raleigh City Council signed off on the plan Tuesday, and soon the water fountain on West Hargett Street facing Nash Square will be bulldozed. The memorial – which will honor Raleigh’s eight police officers killed in the line of duty – will take its place by May.
The west side of the site, closest to the city hall entrance, will feature 21 granite columns. “It speaks to the interconnectedness of the police department,” Sayre said. “Each one is different, but they have a family resemblance.”
A separate column will stand at the opposite end, bearing the engraved names of the eight officers killed since the 1920s. There’s room to add more if a future tragedy occurs.
The center of the site features a 64-foot narrow water table “that reflects the sky, that reflects what is around it,” Sayre said. The table has eight holes representing each fallen officer, and the holes will be lit from below at night.
“As you walk around, the light appears to move,” Sayre added.
Lane hopes family members of the fallen will visit the memorial, and a partially secluded area at the back will give them privacy. Several of those relatives attended Tuesday’s presentation.
City council members had high praise for the design.
“It’s very profound and has symbolic metaphors,” Councilman Russ Stephenson said. “It’s really great that we are able to show our respects.”
The memorial will cost $500,000, and the foundation still needs to raise about $150,000 to complete the project. At Councilman Thomas Crowder’s request, the city allocated another $2,100 toward the effort.
The foundation’s next fundraiser is the annual Five-O Memorial Bicycle Ride, scheduled for Aug. 24 at the Trek bike shop on Durant Road. For information, visit www.rpdmemorial.org.