Student plans Rick Lupe memorial3 min read

Originally posted on White Mountain Independent. Text and photo by Mara Reyes Jul 29, 2004

PINETOP-LAKESIDE – If 15-year-old Richard Genck has his way, a memorial paying homage to all firefighters and featuring a life-size statue of fallen firefighter Rick Lupe will be erected by next year’s Fall Festival. The Pinetop-Lakeside Town Council gave Genck’s proposal the green light during last week’s meeting. Genck, a Blue Ridge High student, hopes to make the memorial his Boy Scout Eagle Project.

“My dad and I were thinking about it together one night, trying to come up with a project, and then we thought of the fire and put the two together,” Genck explained to The Independent. He is the son of Rod and Cathy Genck.

He pictures a life-size statue of Lupe holding an ax or other fire-fighting tools and surrounded by four stations explaining what Lupe did and how the hotshots, fire jumpers and other firefighters “save our community from wildfires … (putting) their lives on the line” to protect “our way of life on our beloved mountain.”

“Rick Lupe gave the ultimate sacrifice, his life, to this cause,” Genck said. The Fort Apache Hotshots, under the leadership of Lupe, are credited with saving Pinetop-Lakeside and adjacent communities during the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in 2002. A year later Lupe died from injuries sustained during a prescribed fire.

Genck wants the memorial in a prominent place. He asked the council for permission to put it next to the Larson Public Library at the Woodland Road intersection, “so people could see it all the time, even people from out of town. Maybe they’ll say, ‘Hmmmm. Who is this?’ while sitting at the stop light. This could be a reminder of the efforts given in each of our behalf’s.”

The council OK’d the location requested by Genck.

He also hopes the memorial will “secure the bonds” between the White Mountain Apaches and the townspeople.

He already has contacted local artists who have agreed to help with project at discounted rates. Genck says the sculpture will be “first class” and made with durable materials such as granite, dyed concrete, resin or bronze. The final design will be submitted to the council for approval.

Genck stressed that the project will be made at no cost to the Town. Funds will be obtained through fund-raisers, grants and corporate donations. He said he will seek permission from the Lupe family to use their name on the memorial.

“For Rick Lupe’s sacrifice and for the dangerous service the hotshots, smoke jumpers and firefighters perform in protecting our community, I believe they deserve a memorial as thanks and as a reminder to our people of the town of what they do,” Genck said.

Councilor Ginny Handorf was “pleased” that the memorial will also honor all hotshots and firefighters. “Rick wouldn’t have been able to do it by himself,” she said.

Genck said he will invite local, state and tribal representatives to the memorial dedication. “I would like the memorial dedicated with as much fanfare as we can muster,” he said.

Rick Lupe Trail of Heroes

In related news, the Arizona Department of Transportation has combined the proposed Rick Lupe Trail of Heroes with the Lakeside Village Streetscape Project, which will result in an accelerated timetable for the trail. The trail will be 3.8 miles long with a single 10-foot multi-use path constructed on the east side of Highway 260 from Sara Reidhead Realty, approximately Mile Post 354, to Hon-Dah Casino, approximately Mile Post 357.

Funding was scheduled for 2005 for the streetscape project and 2006 for the Rick Lupe Trail. The three-year project involves ADOT, Pinetop-Lakeside and White Mountain Apache Tribe.