MARIETTA — Love County officials attempted to break some very hard ground on the courthouse lawn Monday morning for a memorial honoring public safety personnel killed in the line of duty. 

The groundbreaking ceremony also kicked off a fundraising campaign to help pay for the Public Safety Memorial. Tim Coyle, Love County Fire Department vice chairman, said while there are national police and fire memorials, as well as state memorials, they wanted a way to honor their local first responders. 

“I wanted us to have them in our own county and have their names up here on the lawn showing that people paid the ultimate sacrifice for their action,” Coyle said. “The firefighters are all volunteers so the only ones that remember them are their friends and neighbors.” 

One of those firefighters died in a 1934 fire that Coyle said basically destroyed downtown Marietta. 

“We had one firefighter that the wall fell down on him and he died two or three days later, and we had another one who had a heart attack, and we had another one who had severe burns and died from those burns,” Coyle said. 

After doing some research, he said he also found out three sheriffs have died in the line of duty over the years. 

“The firefighters and police officers that died, and that also includes EMS, medical people, anybody in the public safety sector that sacrificed their lives, I think that they need to be honored forever,” Coyle said. 

The front wall of the memorial will do just that. The back wall of the memorial, dubbed the “Wall of Honor,” will recognize those in public safety who made major contributions to the community. One such person who came to Coyle’s mind was Love County Emergency Manager Tracey Smithwick. 

“Unfortunately, he passed away last September and when we went to get a new emergency manager, this guy had like 47 different hats that he was wearing that a majority never even knew he had,” Coyle said. 

To help support the fundraiser, Coyle said individuals can make direct donations or sponsor a brick. The bricks purchased will pave a walkway into the memorial and can be personally engraved. A major portion of the funds needed to create the memorial will be raised by the sale of the brick campaign. 

There are two brick paver sizes, three brick colors to choose from and free art designs featuring public safety insignia including a police badge and fire department, EMS and sheriff’s department logos, as well as an American flag. 

“It’s going to be a really nice addition, I think, to our courthouse,” said Love County Commissioner Bub Peery. “We’re all proud of them (first responders), they do a great job.” 

In addition to numerous city and county officials and public safety personnel, Oklahoma State Representative Tommy Hardin, R-Madill, also participated in the groundbreaking ceremony Monday. 

“I think it’s a great way to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of Love County,” Hardin said. 

To ask questions about the memorial or brick fundraising campaign call Tim Coyle at (580) 276-6725 or email tcoyle168@gmail.com or call Chris Kirk at (580) 276-1155 or email ckirk@cityoflewisville.com.