Special markers will highlight and memorialize police officers Larry Nehasil, James T. Kelley and Ervin M.H. Johnston, patrolman Sidney Dethloff and firefighter Gary Kreski at Livonia's Fallen Heroes Monument. Plans for the monument and park improvements at Nehasil Park, located adjacent to Livonia City Hall, were unveiled Wednesday night.
Four police officers and one firefighter will be honored at the Livonia Fallen Heroes Monument, part of the plans for Larry Nehasil Park.
Plans were unveiled Wednesday night at Laurel Manor by members of a volunteer committee for a $550,000 renovation and expansion of the park, formerly Civic Center Park, located just west of Livonia City Hall.
The project's progress is contingent upon contributions from the public, but committee members are confident that the monument, a plaza and promenade can be completed this year at an estimated cost of $350,000 for that first phase.
Wednesday night was about the details for the proposed monument honoring Nehasil, Patrolman Sidney Dethloff, police Officers James Kelley and Ervin Johnston and firefighter Gary Kreski.
Robert Stevenson, Livonia's former police chief and chair of the Nehasil Memorial Park Committee, said the original plans were to memorialize Larry Nehasil, but members of Nehasil's family, including Linda Nehasil, Larry's widow, wanted to recognize other officers and the firefighter who lost their lives while on duty for the city of Livonia.
That is something Larry Nehasil would have wanted, according to Police Chief Curtis Caid, who is married to Larry's twin sister, Lori.
“We wisely took their counsel,” Stevenson said.
Brandon Kritzman, a Livonia City Council member and architect who volunteered to work on the committee, presented the memorial monument and park improvement plans for the site, which is slightly larger than one acre.
Kritzman and architect Jack Runkle, landscaper and contractor Larry Runnion and landscape architect Tony Monk wanted to create an area of reflection and “a humbling and emotional experience.” Kritzman was the design lead, and also was assisted by staff at New Perspective Architects, where he is principal and owner. All volunteered for the project.
If construction conflicts occur this year for Phase 1, summer concerts for the Music From the Heart series are expected to be moved to the south lawn of City Hall. A new portable stage, which is expected to arrive later this year and was approved by the City Council last year, will be set up for concerts on the southeast edge of the park to create an amphitheater.
Phase II would include extensive landscaping, new trees and additional pathways, along with a small park expansion along the west edge of the site.
A volunteer effort
Mayor Jack Kirksey told the audience that the park was not a city project. “It's a volunteer group coming together,” Kirksey said. That evening was about the monument itself and was not a fundraiser, Kirksey said, but he wanted the audience to think about how residents and supporters can become involved and help the memorial come together through small donations or purchasing a brick for the plaza to remember a loved one. “It is an opportunity for us to remember members of our families or someone in our lives, or the challenges we have faced,” Kirksey said.
Wayne County Commissioner Laura Cox, R-Livonia, said she was working to bring $127,000 in parks millage money to help pay for the park expansion. Parks millage money also helped establish the Veterans Park across the street on the northeast corner of Five Mile and Farmington roads.
The money has been allocated during commission discussions and has to receive final approval from the commission, which is expected. “It's a great way to remember people and how important law enforcement and public safety is to the community,” Cox said. She encouraged people to donate and “help match” the $127,000.
Steve Courtney, radio personality at WJR and Livonia resident, discussed his love for the city and the dedication of police and firefighters. “This monument is so important, not just for those who are working here now, but to let those know who are here years from now, that this community cares,” Courtney said. Courtney reminded the audience that bad people don't care where they commit crimes, and fires “don't care” where they burn.
“Something bad may happen, but if it does, you won't be forgotten,” Courtney said.
Stevenson reflected on Livonia as well and the support from the community for the Nehasil family after Nehasil's death. “It was a true outpouring of love from the community,” Stevenson said. Approximately 2,500 police officers and citizens attended the funeral. “Along the procession route, people lined the streets of Livonia to show their support on a day that it was 5 degrees,” Stevenson said.
And after letters and donations came into the Livonia Police Department, the department sent out 1,200 cards to recognize the support and donations to a memorial fund to assist the family, Stevenson said.
Stevenson told the audience that when he delivered the eulogy at Nehasil's funeral two years ago, he promised that the Livonia community “would take care of the family.” He asked the audience to help him keep his vow.
“We will always remember you,” Stevenson said, remembering his final words of the eulogy. Stevenson said the community “would always remember the sacrifices these officers and firefighter made.”
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A site plan rendering features two plazas, and a promenade that curves and leads to the Fallen Heroes Monument on the Lower Plaza at Nehasil Park at Five Mile Road and Shadyside Drive, just east of Farmington Road, The monument would be located next to the badge in the rendering. A portable stage will help create an amphitheater, shown in the lower left corner.
How to donate
Residents interested in contributing to the Livonia Fallen Heroes Monument can make checks payable to the city of Livonia, 33000 Civic Center Drive, Livonia MI 48154. The check should indicate a memo for the Larry Nehasil Memorial Committee. Checks can be dropped off at the mayor's office on the fourth floor of Livonia City Hall.
Larger donations can be made for other commemorative items with plaques for loved ones, including a picnic table ($2,500), bench ($1,500), planter ($1,000), trash receptacle ($1,000) and bike rack ($500). Engraved bricks can be purchased in three sizes for $150, $250 or $450.
For general questions on donating, call the mayor's office at (734) 466-2201.
Download The Memorial Order Forms Here.
Write "Active Member" or "Retiree" at the top of the order form to get preferential placement of bricks.