Portrait of a Hero - Dick Eggerding
Dick Eggerding, known to many as the male “Muse of Oro Valley”, has dedicated his time in the town to the pursuit of community art and conservation. Through his tireless efforts, Dick has brought the wonderful world of art, music and most recent, the vision of the Arizona Heroes Memorial to the citizens of Oro Valley and now Arizona, enriching the culture for decades to come.
At the inspiring age of 89 Dick Eggerding is still going strong and has the same enthusiasm and affection for the astounding landmarks of southern Arizona.
He developed his passion for the arts early in life. As a teenager, he participated in several school and local commercial productions and then attended Washington University on a voice scholarship. He began his singing career with the St. Louis Municipal Opera as a tenor soloist. He performed in more than 50 operas during his involvement with the group.
After his marriage to Marjorie in 1954, Dick was drafted into the United States Army that same year. He served in Counter-Intelligence Unit and was stationed overseas in various locations, including Itazuke Airforce Base near Fukuoka, Japan. During his service, he and other members of his unit helped establish an orphanage for the Japanese children in outskirts of Fukuoka.
After the war he entered the insurance industry and later became president and chairman of the board of American Commercial Insurance Agency.
Dick and his wife Marjorie moved to Oro Valley in 1988 and became active in local arts, cultural and other citizen-driven issues one of which was the creation of the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council co-founded by Dick and Bob Weede.
He was chosen by the Northwest EXPLORER newspaper as one of two “Citizens of the Decade” because of his dedication to the community of Oro Valley and especially his work with the Greater Oro Valley Art Council along with his pursuit for open space and parks for residents. The first annual Arts, Music and Jazz festival was held in 1995 and continue to this day. He was also able to obtain funding from the Pima Association of Governments for Summer Youth Art Projects- the first project was the Oro Valley Welcome sign on Oracle Road.
Dick’s passion for community, service and the arts lead him to advocate for land from a local developer for the Oro Valley Library. He also served as vice president of economic development for the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce. In conjunction with the town of Oro Valley co-authored the Oro Valley code for 1 percent of new construction costs to be donated to public art, creating art funding on all commercial and public construction projects.
Amongst many other initiatives Dick served as the chairman of the Public Arts Endowment Advisory Committee, member of the General Plan Steering Committee and chairman of the Naranja Town Park site task force and was one of the founding members of Citizens Land Conservation Committee, dedicated to saving “Steam Pump Ranch” and other land conservation issues.
After living in the Oro Valley community for over 34 years his focus for the last 5 years has been dedicated to the building of the Arizona Heroes Memorial that will honor Veterans, First Responders and Healthcare workers of Arizona.
What motivated you to create the Memorial?
Dick – “It’s a combination of several things over in Korea finding the grave site of a fellow soldier who was killed 11 days before the armistice in July of 1953 and in the process, he got the Silver Star for his efforts. I asked how I could honor him, and people like him. My personal life my father was in WWI got the Spanish flu and died prematurely. My cousin was severely injured. Then 911 that was the final straw and I felt we needed to have a place to honor all in one place and that how the vision of the memorial began.”
Why do the people of Arizona deserve a Memorial like this?
Dick- “I think because of the large number of sacrifices made by Arizonans and continue to sacrifice. It is only fitting that these heroes be recognized, remembered, and honored in our state.”
What do you think the Memorial will bring to Southern Arizona?
“Recognizing that it’s the only one of its kind West of the Mississippi, it’s going to address the issue of patriotism which has fallen to the wayside. It will resurrect patriotism through ceremonies, education programs and honorary services. The magnitude of the project brings prestige and visitors to a wonderful tourism attraction. As well as on going education for our future generations. It will develop respect for the heroes and services that are reflected in this memorial.”
What’s next for the memorial?
We are taking an aggressive action to raise the funding to finish building the memorial. The Memorial plans of phase one are finished and construction will soon begin at a breathtaking location in Oro Valley. The Memorial design is beautiful, awe inspiring, and desperately needed.
Do you have a motto you live by?
“At the end of each day we should be one step closer to what we should be.” Dick Eggerding
What can our community do to support this worthy Memorial project?
We hope that your listeners will agree that we owe each of these heroes a debt of gratitude, and a promise to never let their stories of service and sacrifice be forgotten.
Everyone listening to our conversation today can help by actively supporting the Arizona Heroes Memorial project! So please, visit the web site at http://www.azheroesmemorial.org/ share the story, and contribute what you can to help us complete the project!