Ogden-area roadside memorials help families remember lost loved ones
OGDEN — Soon after his son died from injuries sustained in a car wreck on Monroe Boulevard last June, Julian Dominguez and other members of the teen’s family placed a cross in the grassy area beside the street.
The aim was two-fold, he said — boost awareness about the importance of driving safely and memorialize his son, Rudy Dominguez, 16, who would have been a Ben Lomond High School senior. He died June 11, five days after the one-car accident on the downhill curve along Monroe Boulevard south of Ninth Street.
“Rudy had a really good life,” said his dad. The teen was a passenger in the vehicle.
The cross, decorated with small cars given Rudy’s interest in all things automotive, flowers and photos, had to be removed earlier this month so fencing could be placed beside the sidewalk in the section. But Julian Dominguez hopes to replace it when the work is done, maybe with a plaque if not the cross. And his efforts underscore similar initiatives elsewhere in the Ogden area and beyond by grieving family members trying to keep the memory of lost loved ones alive.
The family of Brittany Zoller, hit and killed by a car while she was walking across U.S. 89 in Harrisville on Nov. 21, 2018, created an impromptu memorial to the young woman on a chain-link fence near the crash site after her death. They have kept it up, decorating the space with flags, flowers, signs and more.
“It helps us,” said Kristal Egelund, Zoller’s mom. “It gives me someplace to go to let her know she’s still part of our family no matter what.”
Misty Johnson maintains a small cross in the island between the eastbound and westbound lanes on Second Street in Ogden, west of Downs Drive. Periodically, someone will rip it out, but she’ll replace it. Her cat Prince was hit and killed by a car near the spot.
“He was awesome,” Johnson said. “He just brought so much joy to my life. Even the neighbors loved him.”
Such memorials sit in a gray area of public policy, not singled out but not necessarily welcome additions, either, especially if they get in the way of pedestrians or hinder the vision of motorists.
“The city does not have a policy or ordinance directly addressing these memorials. In general, however, Ogden City does not allow the use of city streets, including park strips or other areas behind the curb, for these types of displays or for other purposes such as business advertising or posting campaign signs,” Mark Stratford, Ogden’s deputy city attorney, said in an email.
Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner
Utah Department of Transportation spokesperson Mitch Shaw, similarly, said the agency doesn’t have a specific policy. Typically, UDOT workers will remove them along state roads only if they have been up “for a really extended period of time, like months and months and months, or if they pose a sight hazard,” he said.
Whatever the case, roadside memorials are out there, serving as reminders of people taken away too soon and, in some cases, of roadway dangers.
Julian Dominguez said he had hoped the cross he placed along the steep section of Monroe Boulevard where the accident involving his son occurred would get motorists thinking. The car was speeding and his son wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
“That’s my message, part of it, to get kids to wear seat belts and drive safely,” Dominguez said. He also hoped the cross would have made motorists mindful of the curve in the roadway section.
He brought the cross out recently and displayed it with other family members for the Standard-Examiner near the accident site. For now, though, its place is at the family home, inside Rudy’s room.
The driver of the car, a juvenile, had been drinking and she was adjudicated in juvenile court for automobile homicide, according to Ogden Police Department spokesperson Lt. William Farr. She and another passenger in the vehicle sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the one-car crash.
Another memorial has taken shape on a power pole at the corner of Second Street and Porter Avenue in Ogden to remember Isaac Gonzalez, killed about two blocks away in a drug-related shooting on Jan. 9, 2020. Some of the decorations, which include a pair of ski goggles, a representation of Our Lady of Guadalupe and more, are faded and haven’t been touched in a while, said Martha Alejandre, who lives in a house near the power pole.
“I know what it is and I respect what they’re doing,” she said. However, she lamented that the memorial hasn’t been maintained, though she doesn’t touch it.
A few blocks to the south at the bottom of a steep hill on Fifth Street, a weather-beaten wooden cross sits beside a chain-link fence, decorated with artificial flowers, a memorial to two teens killed in a 2005 accident, said Alejandre. According to an archived Associated Press article on KSL.com, two teens died at the site after the car they were traveling in rolled and flipped at the bottom of the hill.
Egelund said new owners recently took over the land containing the fence where she and her family have created the memorial to Zoller, her daughter. She worries about the new owners removing the fence, as her daughter doesn’t have a gravesite. “If that’s the case, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said.
Indeed, the pain of losing a child is intense, and the memorial, at least, provides a means to remember.
“It’s a hard thing to lose a child. It never gets easier. You go on with your life, you have to. But that void’s still there,” Egelund said.