Honorary street signs recognize Merrill citizens of historical significance

Applications for honorees to be recognized in 2024 due by March 31

An honorary street sign on the corner of Pier St. and 2nd St. in Merrill honors the life of Lieutenant Thomas W. Beckman of the Merrill Fire Department who died in the line of duty Jan. 3, 1978. His family came for the unveiling. Shown, L to R: Cadence Ryman (granddaughter), Susan Ryman (daughter), Polly Polak (formerly Polly Beckman, Lt. Beckman’s wife at the time of his death), Lisa Haas (daughter), and Andy Hass (grandson). Submitted photo.


In September 2021, Alderman Michael “Gus” Caylor and Chair of the City of Merrill’s Historic Preservation Committee (HPC) proposed the idea of memorializing former Merrill citizens who made significant contributions to the city of Merrill’s history. It was a way of “remembering those who left their mark on the city in a more permanent way.” The HPC embraced and ran with the idea, and an initiative to erect honorary street signs within the city of Merrill began.
By early 2022, the Committee had identified five names of notable former Merrill citizens and was making plans to develop and design the signs, but the City’s rebranding slowed the process a bit, as they did not want to move forward with a design that might soon be outdated. By early 2023, the re-branding and street sign designs were both finalized, the first signs ordered, and the Committee had decided to memorialize all 11 of the individuals nominated on the inaugural signs to be installed in 2023. The surviving family members of those being memorialized were notified and a schedule of dates to unveil the street signs was set.
While the street signs erected are honorary and are not used to navigate the city, and no addresses changed within the city as a result of their installation, they are a tribute to the impact individual citizens can have on the greater community. Many of those honored had no idea during their lifetime what their contributions would mean to Merrill.
“Now it is Merrill’s honor to honor them, and the Merrill Historic Preservation Committee could think of no better way to do that than with permanent, highly visible markers and streets given honorary second names in tribute to them so they will always be remembered,” the HPC said. “Whenever possible, the honorary street signs were installed at a meaningful location with respect to the person being honored.”
During 2023, each sign was unveiled with a brief ceremony recognizing the person for whom the honorary street sign was named and telling a bit about the impact that person had on the Merrill community. Whenever possible, surviving members of the honoree’s family were invited to attend the dedication and unveiling. Mayor Steve Hass, representatives from the HPC and Merrill’s City Council, and other community members whose lives were touched by the honorees also came out for the dedications.

Holy Cross Sisters, including some from the Mother House in Switzerland, gathered for the unveiling of Mother Aniceta Way, honoring the Sister who founded the Holy Cross Sisters Novitiate in the United States in Merrill and launched more than 100 years of service to the Merrill community. Submitted photo.

2023 memorial street signs erected

The 2023 memorial street names, and the honorees for whom the memorial street signs were named and erected, were (in no particular order):

  • Mother Aniceta Way – corner of Martin St. and O’Day St. – Mother Aniceta (Ann-a-see-Ta) Regli, the founder of the Novitiate for the Holy Cross Sisters in Merrill, came to the United States from Switzerland to further the mission of the Holy Cross Sisters, having made stops in Illinois and North Dakota and Medford, Wis., before being invited to Merrill by city leaders in an attempt to get a hospital built here.
    In 1923, Mother Aniceta and her associates got off the train in Merrill and walked over the Center Ave. Bridge. It is then that they first saw the T.B. Scott Mansion, the building the City offered to repair in order for the Sisters to make it into a hospital. Mother Aniceta felt the building was too small for a hospital but would make a wonderful Novitiate. From there, the Sisters, under the guidance of Mother Aniceta, began work on the new hospital that was opened in 1926.
    The presence of the Holy Cross Sisters on what became “the hill” grew to a large chapel, a convent, and eventually a high school and college, all of which served the Merrill community for many years, providing health care, education, and spiritual guidance.
  • Lt. Robert Russell Path – 500 block of N. Spruce St. – Honoring the life of Lt. Robert Russell, an Army Air Corp flyer who was shot down and killed during World War II. He is only one of four Lincoln County servicemen, and the only city of Merrill resident, who is listed as Missing in Action from WWII. The street was chosen as it is the block in which Russell and his family called home. at the corner of Spruce St. and E. 6th St.
  • Capt. Elmer Krueger Way – 1100 block of E. Second St. – Krueger is the only Merrill Police Officer to be killed in the line of duty. He lost his life in 1952 while making an arrest to the north and east of the Lincoln County Jail.
  • Natalie Scribner’s Path – 100 block of W. First St. – Scribner was the longest serving director of the T. B. Scott Library, holding that title from 1922 to 1948. She was instrumental in the creation of the Wisconsin Valley Library Service that became the model for cooperative libraries and inter-library sharing throughout the state. The street sign is in front of the T. B. Scott library.
  • Lt. Thomas Beckman Trail – 100 block of S. Pier St. – Beckman died in the line of duty while serving the Merrill Fire Department on January 3, 1978, while at a house fire on Mill St. Beckman was known throughout central Wisconsin for his work educating firefighters and members of the public in fire service training, fire prevention, and emergency care. Beckman was known as a trailblazer in modern fire techniques and his contributions to the fire service. The block was chosen as it is now the home of the Merrill Fire Department.
  • Sgt. Grant Dampier Pass – 300 block of N. Prospect St, – Sgt. Dampier was mortally wounded in the line of duty in 2006 while serving our country overseas as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Assigned to the 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Fort Carson, CO. The block was chosen, as that was the location of Dampier’s home when he was killed.
  • Clifford Tiny Krueger Way – 1200 Block of E. Main St. – A graduate of Merrill High School, Krueger was known as the “Fat Boy” of the Seils-Sterling Circus, but went on to be elected first to the Merrill Common Council and then to the Wisconsin State Senate where he served for over 30 years. Krueger was often called the Champion of the Northwoods of Wisconsin and was known in Madison as a leader of the Republican Party, although he labeled himself a progressive. The 1200 block of E. Main St. was selected, as this was the block in which his tavern “Tiny’s Place” once stood.
  • Sgt. Ryan Jopek’s Route – 2000 block of E. Main St. – Killed in action on August 1, 2006, while serving overseas as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Jopek, who was 20 years old, was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 127 Infantry Regiment, Wisconsin National Guard. Jopek suffered injuries when an IED detonated near his convoy in Tikrit, Iraq. The selection of this block is due to Jopek’s home being on that corner of E. Main and Sales St.
  • Andrew Warren Way – 100 block of S. Mill St. – Warren bought a tract of land at the juncture of the Wisconsin and Prairie Rivers. He assembled a crew of workmen and built a sawmill and dam. He also built log cabins to house the men. Jenny Bulls Falls, later to be called Jenny and now known as the City of Merrill, was born. The street selected is very near the area where the dam and sawmill Warren built.
  • H. V. Kaltenborn Byway – 700 block of E. First St. Born in Milwaukee but raised in the 700 block of E. First St. in Merrill, Kaltenborn left Merrill at an early age to join the armed forces and fight in the Spanish American War. While there, he wrote stories for his hometown newspaper, The Merrill Advocate. Upon return to the United States, he began with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle at the age of 24 and enrolled in Harvard. He joined CBS in 1927 and by 1936 was providing live accounts from the battlefields of the Spanish Civil war. Kaltenborn went on to become known as the “Voice of America” and was considered the “Dean” of radio commentators. His radio career both on CBS and NBS spanned more than 30 years. Although he is probably one of the most famous people to come from Merrill, few people have ever heard of him and until now he has not been recognized in any way in the city.
  • Riley’s Route – 200 block of Court St. – Officer Riley Kurtz died in January of 2022 due to natural causes while serving the City of Merrill and employed with the Merrill Police Department. The 24-year-old officer became the fourth active-duty police officer to die while serving the city, and the youngest. The 200 block of Court St. was chosen, as that is the street most officers travel on when they head out on patrol. Riley’s Route will also intersect with Captain Elmer Krueger’s Way, reminding officers daily of those who have gone before them and the dangers of the job.
    “It should be noted, the signs designating these memorial street names clearly state they are honorary,” Caylor said. “The signs themselves are also blue in color to distinguish them from the traditional green street signs. If you live on a street in which a person is honored, your street name and address will not not be affected. This signage is only honorary and does not affect your postal address.”

The origins of the idea and the importance of the signs

When the T. B. Scott Mansion was demolished in 2021, it ignited a new passion for historical preservation within the community and the once-dormant Merrill HPC began holding regular meetings again. Prior to Caylor being elected to a second term as Alderman, then Mayor Derek Woellner had appointed him to the HPC and, after Mayor Steve Hass was elected, he appointed Caylor to Chair the HPC.
“One of my main objectives was to make a new generation of citizens aware of our past and those who left their permanent mark on the city or even the world,” Caylor said.
This program is one way to honor those “who left an indelible mark on the city through their lives.”

Submit the name of someone to honor

The City of Merrill is now looking for the community to suggest names for future memorial signs to be erected in the community. Any citizen can make a nomination. “Names submitted are to be of residents or former residents who through their life, their works, their contributions to the city, or in their passing left an indelible mark upon this community,” Caylor said. “The location of the memorial blocks will be significant to the deceased. The person must be deceased a minimum of five years before the nomination can be considered with exceptions being made for City employees who die while in service to the community.”
Applications are being accepted until March 31, 2024. Applications are available online at: https://tinyurl.com/merrillsigns and there is a $20 fee to submit an application. This is to prevent serial applications and to help offset the cost of the signs, the HPC said.
The HPC will consider the applications received at their April 2024 meeting based on the historical significance of the application. If all goes as planned, five names will be selected for the 2024 cycle, surviving family members notified, signs ordered, and a schedule for signs to be erected and dedicated will be set to begin as early as summer 2024.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top