By Selwyn Harris
Veterans, families, and the community at large came together this past weekend to commemorate Veterans Day.
On Saturday, town officials and a handful of local residents gathered at Chief Tecopa Cemetery’s veterans section to officially open the columbarium, which will hold the ashes of deceased service members.
Outgoing Nye County District 3 Commissioner Gary Hollis praised town officials for their efforts in making the columbarium a reality.
“It is easy to say ‘let’s get it done,’ but these guys got it done and I’m proud of the town board of Pahrump for getting this done and achieving some great successes. It is everybody in the community and I’m a little bit saddened that there are not more people here today at this memorial, to be here and help us remember all of our veterans,” he said.
Former Pahrump Veterans Memorial Advisory Board Vice Chair Jose Tellas said the project has been in the works for several years and he is pleased that local families can begin interring their loved ones’ remains at the site.
“They first need to contact the Town of Pahrump for all of the administrative stuff. They need to talk with Samantha Carns at the town office about it. There is room for 72, which allows for 36 on each side of the columbarium. We are planning to build another one in the near future,” he said.
Town Board member Dr. Tom Waters, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, remarked on the design of the structure as it stands at the entrance of the site.
“When we first started talking about the columbarium, we went out to Boulder City and looked at theirs and how they had it lined up. Jose had some ideas on how we wanted to do this. We have modified it and I think everybody had some input into it. Buildings and Grounds Manager Matt Luis had some great ideas and we really appreciate it because he’s the one who knew exactly what we wanted.
“Once he got the columbarium seated, then he put the concrete around it, and put the rocks in and it matches our benches. He knew precisely what we wanted and I’m just very pleased with what the advisory board has done. I am very proud that the columbarium is now open for families who have been holding the ashes of their loved ones while waiting for this to open,” he said.
Waters also noted that there is a fee for interring remains at the site. Families should go to the town office to make reservations. A down payment is required, but reimbursement from the VA is likely.
“It will eventually pay for itself, and that should pay for the next columbarium and so on, which means we shouldn’t have to go to the town or the county and ask for any more money.” he said.
Just adjacent to the columbarium is a young oak tree, which Tellas said was planted as a symbol of life.
“It’s called the ‘tree of life.’ When we were in the process of getting this done, I went to Boulder City and they had a tree of life. I thought it would be real nice to have one at our veteran’s section of the memorial. The board agreed with me, so we bought a tree and that is for loved ones to never forget our veterans. What happens is we bury them or put them into the columbarium and we forget them. We hope that this tree will help them to remember the veterans,” he said.
Local resident Richard Goldstein is a member of the Veteran’s Memorial Advisory Board. The retired army veteran served during the Vietnam era from 1967 to 1969. He said the ceremony was a positive step forward for veterans and their families.
Goldstein also noted that he was surprised that there was no demonstration from a local Native American tribe that voiced its displeasure about the veteran’s section of the cemetery during a special town board meeting last month.
“I thought it was a real nice ceremony. We had a lot of dignitaries there and I kind of expected someone from the Paiute Tribe there to complain about it because they were not too happy about this whole thing to begin with. They came to our board meeting and one of the tribes did a lot of complaining about it.
“They have been invited to meeting, after meeting, after meeting and they always have a reason not to show up. If they wanted to complain about it, they should have done it when it was first in the planning stages instead of waiting till it was all done,” he said.
Goldstein was recently appointed to the advisory board along with several other members.
Nye County Veterans Services Director Ken Shockley said Saturday’s ceremony was the culmination of several years of work and dedication.
“It is finally coming together all in one piece now. Marine veteran Jose Tellas has been working on this for about six years. He started it in 2005, and we actually got the project going in early 2007.
“I was with Jose before the board was originally put together by the Town of Pahrump. I think we have done a lot of great things out here so far with building the cement pad, the memorial section for the wall and also getting the very first columbarium in which is what the ceremony is for; to let the veteran’s dependents know that we do have a columbarium niche there as well as getting the burial site ready for interment there,” he said.