RANDOLPH – The public is invited to comment Thursday on a proposal by American Legion Post 82 to erect a permanent memorial in the Randolph Community Forest on Route 2 in honor of the seven members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club who were killed there in June.
The presentation will be made at 6 p.m. during the meeting of the Randolph Planning Board at Town Hall on Durand Road.
Post 82, which is in Gorham, was the destination of a number of Jarheads on the evening of June 21 when a pickup truck towing a car trailer, operated by Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, of West Springfield, Mass., swerved out of the westbound lane and struck the eastbound riders.
The impact injured three people and killed Desma Oakes, of Concord; Aaron Perry, of Farmington; Michael Ferazzi, of Contoocook; Albert Mazza, of Lee; Joanne and Edward Corr, of Lakeville, Mass.; and Daniel Pereira, of Riverside R.I.
Zhukovskyy was arrested and charged with seven counts of negligent homicide. He is currently being held without bail at the Coos County House of Corrections pending trial. Jury selection in his case has been set for Nov. 8.
Made up of honorably-discharged U.S. Marines and Fleet Marine Force corpsmen, the Jarheads club, which is based in Marlborough, Mass., is a non-profit organization “dedicated to supporting veteran's causes.”
On its website, the club says “We respect all and fear none.”
The group of Jarheads that was allegedly struck by Zhukovskyy was headed to Post 82 to set up for the club’s annual meeting, which was to be held at the post the following day.
As news of the tragedy on Route 2 spread, an impromptu memorial at the impact site, featuring large crosses bearing the names and photos of the victims, sprang up almost immediately along the busy east-west highway.
On July 6, thousands of motorcyclists rode up to the site from the Broken Spoke Saloon in Laconia for a memorial service in the Randolph Community Forest.
A supporter donated a large, rough-hewn wooden table that attendees were encouraged to sign and it is where that table is now located, about 40 feet south of Route 2 and the same distance east of the impact site, that Post 82 would like to place a memorial to the victims who are collectively known as “The Fallen Seven.”
Officials from Post 82 met with the Board of Selectmen in July and got a favorable response to the memorial, said Mike Demers, and were to meet with the Randolph Forest Commission on Tuesday evening.
Reached on Tuesday afternoon at Post 82 and speaking on behalf of it by dint of being the bar manager who answers the phone, Demers said the Post’s leadership is working with Nicoletti Memorials of Berlin on the vertical granite memorial, which from base to tip will be carved with whatever words and symbols that the Jarheads ultimately choose.
The memorial will have slots for seven American flags and two Marine Corps flags and is projected to cost upwards of $12,000. The site work calls for the construction of four parking spots to provide a much safer alternative than stopping on Route 2.
As of Tuesday, Post 82, which would be responsible for maintaining the memorial, has raised about $10,000, said Demers, adding donations can be sent to American Legion Post 82, Six Androscoggin St., Gorham, NH 03581.
He said all money received by the Post will go towards building the memorial or held in reserve for future capital improvements, such as granite benches and a flag pole, and may also be used for what will be the regular replacement of the flags that fly on it.
Asked why Post 82 has taken the lead in the memorial for the “Fallen Seven,” Demers replied that the seven were “our brothers and sisters” in arms. “They were on their way here to rent the hall and it was just the right thing to do.” He credited the efforts of many members, foremost Post 82 Commander Mike Murphy; Adjutant Jeff Stewart; and Finance Officer Chuck Pfohl for advancing the project.
“We’ve had two anonymous donors of one thousand dollars each and we had a Legion post from Maine donate $1,050 and we’ve had a lot of $20 and $100 donations,” said Demers, the farthest of which came from a couple in California.