Donor's spirit recalled at statue dedication

The dedication of Marsha's Park and the bronze cowboy statue that anchors the small piece of property would have delighted Larry Willson who died before realizing his dream to honor Carson Valley's pioneer spirit.

About 50 people gathered in the Minden sunshine Saturday to dedicate the park to benefactor Marsha Tomerlin and remember Willson who died of Lou Gehrig's disease in 2003.

"Welcome home, Larry," Tomerlin said. "You're back on Dangberg property."

Willson's father was the Dangberg ranch manager for many years and Larry grew up learning how to fix everything at the ranch.

He commissioned the $31,000 statue to honor the men and women who worked on the ranch, but he died before it was complete.

"I swore I wasn't going to cry," said Gloria Davis, Willson's friend of 20 years.

"Larry was a wonderful, wonderful man," she said. "Larry loved this area. When we first met 20 years ago, he brought me here to meet his friends and his family."

Willson's sister, Janet Adams, read a speech her brother wrote before he died outlining the history and importance of the Dangberg ranch.

"I would just give anything for him to be here today," Adams said. "He would love this, to see his dream become a reality.

"As his older sister, I always teased him he didn't know anything about art and history. He proved me wrong again."

She said her brother felt people tended to forget history and the bronze statue would be a perpetual reminder.

"Larry wanted to leave his mark on this Valley," she said. "He always wanted to come back here and he has. He's overlooking the Valley that he loved so much."

Before her brother lost the use of his hands to the disease, he had casts made of his face and hands which are incorporated in the statue.

Brenda Stein, owner of EXD Engineering in Minden, choked up as she talked about her contacts with Willson.

By the time she got involved with the statue project, Willson was unable to speak and could only communicate via the Internet from his home in California.

"There is so much in my heart about his project that touched my life," she said. "He was so special to me."

Willson's friend Ed Norton talked about the legal hassles in getting the statue completed.

"It was a difficult process," Norton said. "My biggest disappointment is that Larry didn't live to see this. He died with integrity and on his own terms. If he were here, he would thank each and every one of you."

The Minden Town Board named the park after Tomerlin to honor her beautification efforts along Highway 395 and at the triangle of Dangberg ranch property at highways 395 and 88.

Tomerlin began planting trees along the highway in 1987 and evergreens at the park in 1989.

"We can't tell you how important the Minden Town Board feels this is on our 100th birthday as a town," said town board member Bob Hadfield.

"This really is the gateway to Minden," he said. "It's easy for us to accept a gift like that because it's so special."


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