Darrell Brooks trial: Waukesha's work to memorialize victims

Darrell Brooks

Darrell Brooks, on trial starting Monday, Oct. 3 for the 2021 Waukesha Christmas parade attack, is accused of hitting and killing six people.

Following the attack, the Waukesha community and city officials have worked to memorialize those six lives lost. After a months-long process, a city commission in September selected sites and designs for two permanent memorials.

Community creates memorial 

A temporary memorial at Waukesha's Veterans Park took shape after the Nov. 21 attack. Six crosses with hearts were set up, and people left flowers, gifts and other items as the community mourned Tamara Durand, Wilhelm Hospel, Jane Kulich, LeAnna "Lee" Owen, Virginia "Ginny" Sorenson and Jackson Sparks.

In the days that followed, a memorial grew to include a holiday memorial tree. Hearts hung from its boughs, each honoring those who were affected by what happened. 

The city later distributed special lightbulbs to residents – allowing them to light the city blue for the victims, a community-wide memorial effort of sorts that spanned miles.

Memorial for parade attack victims at Waukesha's Veterans Park

It was not until Dec. 7, 2021 – a little more than two weeks after the attack – that the Waukesha Common Council held a meeting and began considerations to build a permanent memorial. At that time, a time capsule marking the city's 125th anniversary was sealed. It included mementos from the attack.

"I’ve added a lot of the letters – all the letters I received from other mayors, village presidents, the governor. We’ve added copies of the newspaper," Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said at the time.

SIGN UP TODAY: Get daily headlines, breaking news emails from FOX6 News

Reilly announced just before Christmas that the temporary Veterans Park memorial for victims would be removed before the new year. He also announced the creation of a Waukesha Christmas Parade Permanent Memorial Commission.

On Dec. 29, 2021, the Veterans Park memorial was officially decommissioned by the city.

Parade Memorial Commission

The Waukesha Christmas Parade Permanent Memorial Commission began taking shape in January. It consisted of local stakeholders, including some family members of the six people killed, who would work to determine a location and assist in fundraising efforts. 

Come March, the memorial commission held a meeting for the public to share ideas on what the permanent memorial could look like. At the time, the commission was seemingly set on including some sort of marker along the Main Street parade route. Other ideas included dedicated benches and a memorial garden. 

Grede Park (April 2022)

Grede Park emerged as the top choice for a permanent memorial by the end of that month. However, no final decisions were made.

The memorial commission met again in late April. By that time, fundraising plans were underway. The commission's chair, Jerry Couri, estimated at the time that between $75,000 and $100,000 would be needed, including maintenance costs. The commission also started crafting its vision for Grede Park.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Get breaking news alerts in the FOX6 News app for iOS or Android.

Couri said Grede Park was tranquil and big enough to support different ideas. He envisioned a circle of six permanent lights – one for each person who died – around a center statue with another light.

City Attorney Brian Running advised the commission against the use of religious items because the memorial will be located on city land. He said it could open Waukesha to lawsuits.

Picking a design

In May, the memorial commission announced it was seeking concept designs for two memorials. One would be a smaller site of recognition along Main Street, the parade route. The second would be a larger memorial at Grede Park, which would allow for contemplative space to accommodate all that visit. Artists, architects, landscape architects or others with similar skill sets were encouraged to submit design proposals for one or both permanent memorials.

Waukesha's parade memorial commission got one step closer to picking a design for a permanent memorial come July – narrowing the submissions to a group of finalists. At the end of August, those firms and artists made their final pitches.

Thrive Architects Waukesha parade victims memorial rendering

For the memorial at Grede Park, three firms proposed different types of memorials. Saiki Designs called theirs "a garden for our souls." Thrive Architects designed a "Heart of Unity" with six ribbons representing the six victims coming together to form a heart. Strang Architects said they were inspired by ripples because the tragedy's impact rippled throughout the community. One thing all the submissions had in common were blue lights – which had become a symbol for "Waukesha Strong." 

As for a Main Street memorial, those same three firms – along with two artists –  submitted designs. Artist Carmen de la Paz designed a sculpture of two open hands with a heart in the middle, and artist Richard Taylor proposed six abstract trees made of aluminum. Strang Architects continued their ripple theme with a Main Street installation that would lead to Grede Park. Thrive Architects wanted to create a Waukesha Strong heart at the Five Points Intersection. A Saiki Designs proposal had a speaker's seat where people could share the story with younger generations.

Thrive Architects Waukesha parade victims memorial rendering

After months of debate, the memorial commission on Sept. 13 voted to hire Thrive Architects for the memorials at both sites.

While Thrive Architects' designs were the overall favorites, the commission liked another design so much that it will also be incorporated into the Grede Park location. Thus, the commission also voted to incorporate elements from Carmen de la Paz's proposal at Grede Park. All three designs incorporate a heart, a symbol that became synonymous with the tragedy.

Carmen De La Paz Waukesha parade attack victims memorial rendering

The design proposals Thrive submitted may not necessarily be the final design; fundraising could impact whether the final memorial is scaled down or modified.

Cost is the next hurdle for the commission. Both memorial sites will be covered through fundraising. The Grede Park location alone could cost $1 million. The commission wants to raise as much as possible by March 2023.

The memorial commission wants the memorials dedicated on the attack's two-year anniversary: Nov. 21, 2023.