Rendering of new veterans monument

The updated war memorial on Town Square will feature eight slanting panels of black granite, etched with veterans’ names. Though this rendering features images at the base of each panel, the American Legion decided to remove them.

The update to the Town Square veterans’ monument is almost ready to go after the owner of the Wort Hotel and the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar pledged $50,000 to narrow the fundraising gap for the project.

The donation from Bill Baxter, owner of the iconic hotel and bar, brings American Legion Post 43 within just $7,000 of its goal to finance the monument renovation, which will add nearly 200 veterans’ names that weren’t on the old statue.

“This community has been terrific to both of those establishments and to the Baxter family,” said Jim Waldrop, general manager of the Wort. “Because of that, we want to give back to this community.

“We have a real respect for all of our veterans that have served from Teton County and what they mean to this organization and, more importantly, to this country,” he said.

Bruce Hawtin is one of the members of the legion’s fundraising committee, along with T. R. Pierce and Ed Liebzeit. He said Baxter’s wasn’t the only five-figure donation they received, “but this is a biggie.”

“We’re just delighted,” he said. “When we found out about this gift, Ed and T. R. and I were just blown away.”

The donation came just a week after the legion announced it still needed to raise $80,000, nearly half the total project cost, before its deadline at the end of March. Not long before that, at the start of the year, they needed a daunting $100,000.

“We had three months and we were going, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Hawtin said. “And here we are, the 29th of January, we’re almost there.”

Waldrop said Baxter — whose father served as a glider pilot in World War II — hoped the gift would inspire others to contribute. Though contributions in the thousands of dollars have gone a long way, the legion has relied heavily on much smaller donations in the hundreds or below.

“The idea was to … hopefully spur some other support around getting this project done,” Waldrop said. “We wanted to be a catalyst for getting it done.”

The legion plans to unveil the monument — to be composed of eight panels of black granite — on Memorial Day. The ceremony will coincide with Post 43’s centennial.

Friday is the deadline to add names to the monument, and the post hopes to track down as many as possible. To qualify, veterans must have been born in Jackson Hole, entered the military while living here, been buried or had their ashes spread here, or lived here for 25 years or more.

Contact Cody Cottier at 732-5911 or town@jhnewsandguide.com.

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

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