By Natalie MAIER
Community volunteer Steve Pierce can usually be found around town. He coordinates the monthly clean up of the La Crescenta Avenue off-ramp of the Foothill (210) Freeway, and is hard to miss in his bright “screaming yellow” vest. He facilitates filming in Montrose, a popular location for movie scouts. He is a former member of the CV Town Council and currently sits on the CV Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
But perhaps his most important role is a recent one he has undertaken as the new caretaker of the Vietnam Memorial in Montrose, at the northwest corner of Honolulu Avenue and Ocean View Boulevard.
Bill Dodson, who has been overseeing the care of the memorial for 35 years, stepped down from the position last month and Pierce took over.
The memorial was built and dedicated in 1968 during the Vietnam War. Local businessman Don Carpenter raised money to construct it and it is the first memorial built to honor the veterans of the Vietnam War. The names listed were residents from Montrose, La Crescenta, La Cañada and Tujunga.
Pierce’s service in the Vietnam War, coupled with his active involvement in the community, makes him feel uniquely connected to the memorial and he jumped at the chance to be its new caretaker when Dodson resigned.
“It’s a great honor to be doing this. I feel very privileged to be taking this over,” Pierce said.
Every morning Pierce waters the flowers and picks up the trash on and around the memorial. He has added a six-inch high, green wire fence to enclose the memorial to protect and make people aware that is a sacred site.
“We just ask people to respect the memorial site and remember it’s to honor those who have served and gave their lives to protect us and to watch out for our freedom,” Pierce said. “It’s important that we remember that and never forget.”
Dodson, who is a World War II veteran, sent in a letter of resignation to the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and Montrose Shopping Park Association, the organizations that fund the upkeep of the memorial. He said that lack of respect for the memorial caused him to forgo the responsibility of caring for it.
“It took a lot of thought after all these years to give it up, but I just felt that I had done the best I could to maintain it with respect,” said Dodson. “And the lack of respect that has developed between the public and the merchants [in Montrose] got to the point where I just thought I could no longer maintain it.”
He said that parents who let their children climb on top of the memorial, pet owners who don’t clean up their dogs’ mess, and the trash left behind from the local food businesses all contributed to Dodson’s feeling of overall disrespect of the Vietnam Memorial.
However, Dodson is thankful that Pierce has stepped forward to take on the responsibility of caring for the memorial and feels that Pierce will take excellent care of it.