Fallen Officers Memorial
The Fallen Officers Memorial honors Rapid City Police Department officers Nick Armstrong and Ryan McCandless who were killed in the line of duty in 2011. The collaborative work, dedicated in Founders Park in 2014, includes two soaring bald eagles created by local artist James Van Nuys atop twin stainless steel shafts created by local sculptor Dale Lamphere. Flanking the artwork are two granite pillars honoring each officer. The pillars are decorated with an etched photo of each officer, a reproduction of his badge and a description of his career.
The memorial is a gift to Rapid City from the Armstrong and McCandless families with support from the community. The families selected the site for the memorial, Founders Park, as significant in the lives of the fallen young men.
A statement from artist James Van Nuys about the creation of the Fallen Officers Memorial:
I was commissioned by the Rapid City Police Department to create a memorial for officers Nick Armstrong and Ryan McCandless. The concept, which includes two eagles in flight, plaques bearing quotes from the officers and portraits of Armstrong and McCandless, was outlined for me by the families of the fallen officers. My job was to take these elements and combine them into a meaningful, coherent and aesthetically satisfying whole.
In sculpture, the illusion of flight is often achieved by attaching birds to tree branches or rocks but I decided I’d prefer a more abstract approach and attached the eagles to stainless steel blades, the inspiration for which came from Dale Lamphere’s grass sculptures. Because of this and other components of the design that were inspired by Dale’s work, I contacted Dale and asked him to consult on the project and to fabricate the blades, which, thankfully, he agreed to do. There is no-one in South Dakota more knowledgeable about the engineering aspects and installation of monuments than Dale, and I was very fortunate to have this opportunity to learn from the master.
The eagles were sculpted in modeling clay over an aluminum armature. I did not attempt to create extremely realistic eagles in the “every feather, every hair” idiom, but tried to create dynamic shapes and planes that would work well with the blades and the large granite stones that would be placed on either side of the sculpture. I studied photos and anatomical diagrams of eagles pretty diligently but did not obsess about accuracy in that realm.
The bronze eagles were cast by Black Hills Bronze foundry from molds made by sculptor Jim Maher. The actual welding of the blades, and assembly of the sculpture was done by Dale’s assistant, Lane Golliher, who is a very talented wildlife sculptor in his own right. Lane also created the beautiful patina on the eagles.
In addition to the help I received from these artists, there was also a great deal of creative energy contributed by the families of the officers, the Rapid City Planning Commission, and the Rapid City Parks and Recreation Department. It was truly a group effort and I am extremely honored to have been a part of it.