By Amanda Bohman
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
NORTH POLE, Alaska (AP) — Three concrete walls jut out of the dirt and shimmy across the ground like humongous eels.
The walls on Doughchee Avenue off of Badger Road in North Pole, Alaska, are the beginnings of a new memorial park honoring borough residents killed in the line of duty while serving their country or community, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
The walls are the backbone of the Trooper Gabe Rich and Trooper Scott Johnson Memorial Park, which is on the way to being completed this summer thanks in large part to the company that built the walls, Rady Concrete.
Ron Rady, owner of the company and a native of northern Wisconsin, provided the labor and materials to construct the monoliths, valued at more than $75,000.
North Pole Police Chief Steve Dutra, who is leading up an effort to build the park, described Rady’s contribution to project as “beyond superstar.”
“He has been the guy that made this project pop,” Dutra said.
Rady never thought he would be in a position to make this kind of contribution to his community.
The 38-year-old arrived in Alaska in 2000 after deciding to get out of the Arizona heat. For the first year, he slept on his aunt’s couch.
“We’re blessed that we were able to do this,” he said.
Rady is the oldest of 13 children. He once wore a uniform, serving in the U.S. Army and the National Guard.
He was studying engineering at Arizona State University on the G.I. Bill 16 years ago when he decided to make a break for a colder climate.
“I couldn’t stand Phoenix,” he said. “It was miserably hot. Alaska just seemed cold.”
Rady had never been to Alaska but he had two aunts there. He worked jobs babysitting and spraying foam before joining the cement finishers union in 2002.
In 2008, the company he was working for, Interior Concrete, went out of business. Rady had a choice, he said. He could move out of Alaska or he could start his own concrete company.
“I swear, I thought it would only last a year,” he said. “Every year, it just keeps going. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of work.”
Rady Concrete employs 30-40 people and did $5 million worth of work last year, Rady said.
It was last year when Rady was approached about helping at the memorial park.
Rady’s wife, Amy, grew up in North Pole, and members of his family moved to North Pole from Wisconsin.
“My parents and half my family live in North Pole,” he said.
It felt like the right time to give back to the community.
Rady said his role at the park grew after the design of the facility evolved.
“The design got significantly more complicated,” he said. “We just kind of went with it.”
The walls will bear plaques honoring police officers, firefighters, state workers and military service members killed in uniform. They’ll be lighted in the wintertime. Rady also built two concrete benches.
It took about a month to install the walls and benches last fall, Rady said. The forms were built at Rady’s shop and workers poured the concrete on site. They were wrapped in blankets for the winter and sealed this spring.
The park is named after two Alaska State Troopers shot and killed in the line of duty in 2014. One of them, Gabe Rich, is a former North Pole policeman.
Rady said he occasionally stops at the park to check out the walls. He looks forward to seeing the park when it’s finished.
“I think it will be real peaceful,” he said.