Beaverton World War I Monument Crumbling, In Need Of Restoration

“It will be something that they will remember Beaverton by.”

A concrete soldier stands tall in the heart of a Gladwin County city, a reminder of fallen soldiers.

Without help, he may not stand much longer.

The monument, known as “The Survivor,” has stood in Beaverton for nearly a century.

His story dates back even further to the artist who made him, but he’s crumbling and in dire need of help.

“It does honor all the veterans that have served our country during the last 100 years or more,” says Richard Roehrs, treasurer of American Legion Post 171 in Beaverton.

He’s known simply as “The Survivor.”

His stone eyes have stood silent sentry from Ross Lake Park for decades.

“The monument was here in 1925,” Roehrs says. “I was born in 1926. It’s older than I am.”

Roehrs served in World War II — his father, in World War I.

He sees past the concrete.

“When they see that, they will remember, maybe ask questions about what does that stand for,” Roehrs says.

“I’ve driven by it and walked by it, stood in front of it,” says Ed Rachwitz, Beaverton City Councilman. “When I got involved in this, I found out it is very significant.”

Rachwitz also served his country in Vietnam.

With the help of historians like Bob Frei and Bruce Guy, the crumbling monument’s past is now uncovered.

“It was built using a technique that was patented by the artist, [Helmuth] Von Zengen, who was a German immigrant,” Frei says. “Most of his work is probably gone. He spent quite a bit of time when he first came to the United States working in a prison, teaching art to inmates. While he was there, he came across a method where he used to make statues so smaller towns could afford to memorialize their people.”

Frei, who also serves as the president of the Beaverton Historical Society, says “The Survivor” is one Von Zengen’s last-known surviving pieces.

“He did have a connection with somebody here in the community,” Frei says. “When the opportunity came to hire him to build this monument and he said he could it cheaply enough by doing it concrete, he could do it cheaply enough that the town could afford it. One of his surviving works is near the Edison Estate in Florida. It was the entrance to a subdivision down there that Von Zengen was commissioned to build just about the time that he was building this one.”

It’s such history, Rachwitz says, that must be preserved.

“To just haphazardly restore this without putting the detail in with a regular artist who does restoration wouldn’t be right,” Rachwitz says. “The Legion was sponsoring a grant program, a $2,000 matching grant. We applied for it and we are waiting. It will be announced in November if we get the grant.”

Sustaining “The Survivor” would cost $6,000.

“We’ve had the generous support of the community that have brought us almost to that point where we can do that now, even without the grant, but the second part of this project is restoration,” Rachwitz says.

“Water was infiltrating the top of the statue for a long time. It’s made out of concrete. There was a split that had formed in the top,” Frei says. “About 14, 15 years ago, we capped it. We had a man here in town took it upon himself to cap it and more recently we replaced that cap with this aluminum cap, thanks, again, to another local volunteer. Without the help, it probably wouldn’t survive another 25 years.”

The council is looking into how much it would take for a full restoration.

“When I’m here, I see little kids come up and that’ll give their grandfather an opportunity to explain to them what it’s all about,” Frei says. “Without this here as a conversation starter, that would never happen.”

If you are interested to learn more about “The Survivor” or want to donate to restoring it, contact Ed Rachwitz at appleed@hotmail.com.

Make sure you put “WWI Memorial” in the subject line.

“It’s something that you can remember Beaverton by,” Roehrs says. “This monument, as long as I’ve been here, I’ve always associated this monument with Beaverton.”