The people behind highway memorial signs


By Bethany Bruner - The Columbus Dispatch



The sun peeks around a highway signing memorializing Westerville Police officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering stands on I-270. They were killed while responding to a domestic violence call.

The sun peeks around a highway signing memorializing Westerville Police officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering stands on I-270. They were killed while responding to a domestic violence call.


Tribune News Service photos

Then-Pfc. Nicholaus Zimmer served with the Army in Germany. Zimmer was killed in action in Iraq on Memorial Day 2004.

Then-Pfc. Nicholaus Zimmer served with the Army in Germany. Zimmer was killed in action in Iraq on Memorial Day 2004.


Tribune News Service photos

While you were driving to a relative’s house for a healthy holiday helping of turkey and the fixings, or perhaps just on your daily commute, you’ve probably noticed those brown signs along the highway with names on them.

There are more than 200 sections of Ohio roadways that are designated as memorial highways. The designation is given after Ohio representatives or senators introduce legislation before the General Assembly to honor an individual or group, which must then be approved by the body and signed by the governor.

The Ohio Department of Transportation then creates the signs — which cost about $500 each — and posts them facing both directions on the portion of the roadway to be dedicated. There is usually a small ceremony held on-site to formalize the dedication, and some of the signs have American flags hung from them.

Sections of highway across the state that cross multiple county lines are named in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Black fighter pilots and their crews from World War II; U.S. Spanish War Veterans and the Marine Corps League. One section of highway also honors the U.S. Army’s 37th Division, a National Guard infantry unit from Ohio nicknamed the “Buckeye Division” which was deployed to battle in both World War I and World War II.

In Franklin County, there are more than two dozen memorial highway designations, most of them for law enforcement or military personnel who have been killed in the line of duty.

Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Brown

U.S. 23 between 7th Avenue and Northwood Avenue

A Hamilton Township High School graduate, Brown, 26, of Columbus, was killed on April 3, 2012, by an improvised explosive decide in Kunar providence in northeastern Afghanistan while serving his fourth tour of duty.

Columbus police officer Thomas R. Hayes

U.S. 33 between North Souder Avenue and West 5th Avenue

Hayes was shot and paralyzed from the waist down while on duty attempting to arrest two teens for a curfew violation on Dec. 18, 1979, and one of them pulled out a handgun and shot him. Following his injury, Hayes worked as a civilian sketch artist for police. But he continued to suffer serious health issues and one of his legs was amputated in 2005. He died from his injuries in 2011 at age 61.

Army Spc. Nicholaus E. Zimmer

Interstate 270 between West Broad Street and U.S. 62

Zimmer, 20, of Columbus, was a Westland High School graduate. He died on May 30, 2004 when his vehicle was struck by rocket-propelled grenades while serving in Kufa, Iraq.

Columbus mayor Dana ‘Buck’ Rinehart

Interstate 670 between 4th Street and Interstate 70

Rinehart served as mayor of Columbus between 1984 and 1992. During his tenure, he oversaw the completion of I-670 between Downtown and John Glenn Columbus International Airport, as well as the planning and building of the now-defunct City Center shopping center Downtown, redevelopment of the Short North and Brewery districts and the development of the Martin Luther King Center. He died in 2015 at the age of 68.

Gen. Thaddeus Kosciusko

Route 257, beginning in Prospect and continuing to U.S. 33

Kosciusko, whose real full name was Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko, was a Polish-Lithuanian military engineer who came to the then-British colonies in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War to help the colonists. He is credited with helping mastermind the American defeat of the British at Saratoga, N.Y., and helping oversee construction of military fortifications at what is now West Point Military Academy in New York state. He later returned to Poland, where he was considered a national hero and later died at age 71.

Air Calvary Sgt. Joseph W. Danison

Route 317 between U.S. 23 and Noe-Bixby Road

Danison, 24, was killed in combat during the Vietnam War on Sept. 13, 1969, in Tay Ninh province, South Vietnam, near the Cambodian border. His platoon was reportedly attempting to flank and come to the aid of another platoon under attack in an area heavily fortified with North Vietnamese bunkers when they were met with a secondary ambush, including a claymore mine blast and machine gun fire. He took the brunt of the explosion but held on as medics began treating him before small arms fire killed him. He was posthumously given a second Bronze Star and a second Purple Heart for his valor and heroism.

Want to know about the 0ther memorial highway designees across Ohio?

A complete list of memorial highways in Ohio can be found on ODOT’s website.

The sun peeks around a highway signing memorializing Westerville Police officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering stands on I-270. They were killed while responding to a domestic violence call.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/11/web1_20211126-AMX-US-NEWS-HERES-WHAT-YOU-NEED-KNOW-4-OH.jpgThe sun peeks around a highway signing memorializing Westerville Police officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering stands on I-270. They were killed while responding to a domestic violence call. Tribune News Service photos
Then-Pfc. Nicholaus Zimmer served with the Army in Germany. Zimmer was killed in action in Iraq on Memorial Day 2004.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/11/web1_20211126-AMX-US-NEWS-HERES-WHAT-YOU-NEED-KNOW-1-OH.jpgThen-Pfc. Nicholaus Zimmer served with the Army in Germany. Zimmer was killed in action in Iraq on Memorial Day 2004. Tribune News Service photos

By Bethany Bruner

The Columbus Dispatch

Post navigation