The spontaneous memorial to Dylan Scott Thomas, the 7-year-old Baker City boy who died when he fell from a float during the Miners Jubilee parade on July 15, was not made to withstand a Baker City winter.
Dylan’s permanent memorial, by contrast, should last as long as a mountain.
It is, after all, built from the same material.
A crane lifted the half-ton bench, crafted from solid Georgia gray granite, into its place Saturday afternoon beside the Baker Elks Lodge, 1896 Second St.
The Lodge is at the southeast corner of the intersection of Second Street and Court Avenue, where the accident happened.
Less than a day after Dylan died, a makeshift memorial, with balloons and stuffed animals, stood in the center of Second Street.
A bit later the tribute was moved to a spot next to the Elks Lodge. People continued to add to the memorial over the weeks of summer, leaving items as well as writing inscriptions in chalk of many colors.
But by late summer, with autumn storms looming, members of the Elks Lodge began to wonder what would happen to the words and the mementoes if they were soaked by rain and buried by snowdrifts.
Indeed that’s precisely the topic that Elks members Creg Talbott and John Childers were discussing one evening in early September.
“We knew that once the rain and snow came it was going to make a mess,” said Talbott, who has lived in Baker City for 17 years and has been an Elk for about a decade.
Talbott and Childers decided that at 5 a.m. the next day they would collect the items and then get in touch with Dylan’s mother, Megan Thomas, so she could decide whether she wanted to keep any of the things well-wishers had left.
Turned out the Elks didn’t need to do that.
Talbott said he and Childers were still talking about Dylan’s memorial when a woman walked into the Lodge.
It was Megan.
She introduced herself and asked whether it might be possible to arrange for a more permanent memorial to Dylan.
“It was ironic how it all happened,” Talbott said. “The timing couldn’t have been any better.”
Talbott volunteered to coordinate the campaign to raise money for a memorial, and to work with Megan to choose its form and design.
“To me it seemed like something that was pretty important and needed to be taken care of as soon as possible,” Talbott said.
The bench, which was made in La Grande and took about eight weeks to construct, features a photograph of Dylan, which Megan chose, and the inscription “In Loving Memory of Dylan Thomas — 2017.”
Although Talbott was responsible for raising $2,241 for the bench, he emphasizes that his task was easy.
“It took four days,” he said. “I had offers to donate more money than we actually needed. I had to basically turn people away.”
Talbott said the businesses, groups and individuals who contributed to the bench were aware of Dylan’s tragic death and were eager to help ensure a permanent memorial would be installed.
“They instantly wanted to get on board with it,” Talbott said of the contributors.
Megan Thomas wrote in a message to the Herald that “our entire family greatly appreciates the community’s continual support in this incredibly difficult time. Dylan was a very special boy who could make everyone smile. A very special thanks to all the Elks and donors for this beautiful bench.”
Contributors to Dylan Thomas memorial bench
• 208 Hunter’s Cooperative
• Elkhorn Archers
• Steve Rich Environmental Services
• Blackers Memorial
• The Bow Shop
• Mark Nicholas
• Hal Huntington
• Doug Riggs
• Gregg Hinrichsen State Farm Insurance
• Greg and Trish Brinton
• Baker Valley Travel
• Jerry Endicott
• Joyce Watterson
• Harvey Cookson
• Daughters of the American Revolution