Meet Lorri Williams from Landusky, MontanaLorri lives in Landusky, where she is a rancher, but works in Harlem, Montana as the city clerk and treasurer. She asked for $25,000 to build a playground in memory of Deputy Joshua Rutherford, an American Indian who was killed in 2003, responding to a domestic disturbance call. He was survived by his wife and four children. Harlem is a community of 848 residents and it borders the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, which has a population of approximately 2951 residents. Children from Fort Belknap are bused to school in Harlem. The citizens of both Harlem and Fort Belknap utilize the City Park and pool and the new added playground will serve all of the children of Harlem and of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. Lorri says…
"I knew Deputy Rutherford personally from my previous job as Assistant Vice President of the Bank of Harlem. Joshua came to me when he wanted to purchase a home in Harlem, and I did a home loan for him. I was so moved by the fact that this 29 year old man had given his life for the City of Harlem, going out on a domestic call, when he was not even on duty, to help until the officer on duty could get there. Deputy Rutherford was chasing the assailant thru an open field in the dark of night, and when he caught the man, the assailant took Deputy Rutherford’s gun from him, and shot him. It was then that I decided to make it my mission to do what I could to build a new playground structure in the City Park in his memory. I presented my idea to the Mayor, and then to Deputy Rutherford’s mother to ask her approval. She was so happy that something was going to be done to honor her son."
We had a lot of help from Harlem’s mayor, Jeremy Kinyon, who also works at the Bank of Harlem, in arranging our surprise for Lorri. Thanks, Mr. Mayor. The new playground equipment is scheduled to be in place just in time for summer.The Phone Call: I hope I can put into words how meaningful this day was to me. With Jeremy's help, it became much more than just a surprise call from a donor. Jeremy went to visit Maxine Clifford, the fallen officer's mother, to give her the good news in advance and to invite her to be there for today's surprise phone call. He did not want to shock her too much so it was better to let her know in advance. So Maxine was there but that's not all. Joshua's sons Thomas and Joshua, Jr., ages 16 and 11 respectively were there. In fact Joshua, Jr. drove 200 miles from Billings with his grandmother just to be there today. Lorri was also joined by two city aldermen, John Chandler and Dale Cornell, as well as Lorri's co-worker, Robin. Also there was the boys' grandmother, whose name is Bea Kill Eagle as well as Joshua's aunt, Jill Plumage. Calvin Bigby, along with Marilyn Bigby, a Fort Belknap Council Person came, as well as Gros Ventre Tribe Spiritual Leader, Fred Gone.
I spoke to everyone on the phone and at the end, Lorri put me on the speaker phone so I could listen as Fred led a prayer and burned some sweetgrass, which has a purification element. He spoke mostly in his tribal Gros Ventre language and it truly touched my heart. I cried and savored the moment, knowing that I was doing something really good.
Lorri will be featured on the 5:30 news on both ABC and CBS, as well as the 10 pm news on CBS.
Diary Starts Here
December 22, 2008
Today is Lorri and her husband's 30th anniversary and their 2 daughters threw them a surprise party. It was 25-below outside but their friends and family still traveled long distances to come. And next month, to celebrate their anniversary, they are flying to Los Angeles and going on a Carnival cruise along the Mexican Riviera. They have never been on a vacation, and neither one has ever flown on a big plane before, so this is a real first for these two "country folks."
August 18, 2008
I spoke to Maxine today who thanked me again for my contribution. She told me that she was very close to her son and that this event has finally brought her peace and for the first time she felt joy. I was so happy to know that this donation accomplished more than memorializing her son, it also helped her to move on. "Today was the first day I didn't cry," she told me. I am doubly rewarded knowing this has helped Maxine who has been grieving for five years. I also learned that she is going to college to become a nurse. She'll be studying in North Dakota next year and will be 62 when she gets her degree! I plan to follow along with her and hope to get a graduation picture.
August 16, 2008
What a wonderful birthday celebration they had today in Harlem today! Over three hundred people came to the party! Joshua's birthday was celebrated with the dedication of the JOSHUA RUTHERFORD MEMORIAL PLAYGROUND. A Native American prayer started things off with Gros Ventre Tribe Spiritual Leader, Fred Gone, followed by a song and heartfelt words from Joshua's mother, Maxine Clifford; Harlem Mayor Jeremy Kinyon; Blaine County sheriff’s officers; and our hero Lorri, who was presented with a plaque from Jenny's Heroes which was given to her by Mayor Kinyon. After the official ribbon cutting, hundreds of children, friends, and relatives from Harlem and the Fort Belknap reservation were than treated to a huge barbeque feed of buffalo, which was donated by the tribe, as well as hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, drinks, and desserts, all provided by Maxine. I just spoke to her on the phone and she told me that they made a star quilt for me which is traditionally given when you want to honor someone. It makes me cry just to type these words when it's really been my privilege to help honor her son today. With the new playground, Joshua’s memory will live on for generations to come through the joy of children.
August 15th, 2008
Tomorrow is going to be a big day in Harlem. The playground is all done and there will be a huge dedication ceremony held in the morning.
We hired a photographer and a videographer to cover the event so we'll have lots of pictures and video to share on this page.
August 4th, 2008
We received this email from Lorri today:
Dear Jenny & Damon:
Here are more photos showing the slides attached, and the cement truck here dumping the cement. It’s almost finished!!! The little kids are so excited to get to play on it.
July 21, 2008
Guess what? The playground is finally underway! The base structure is together and it will take about 4 more hours this weekend to finish putting the rest of it together. Then the post holes will get cemented the following Monday or Tuesday, and then they will finish it with the gravel. The assembly is all being done by volunteers but they were delayed by rain so it's great to know it's just days away.
July 1, 2008
Still no playground. The holes were dug yesterday but the city is short-handed and now it's the long weekend, so we hope it'll be soon. I'm just the messenger.
June 24, 2008
It looks like I spoke too soon. The playground was SUPPOSED to get started yesterday but I called this morning and Robin told me they didn't start, plus it's raining again. Too bad. Whenever it's ready, we plan to send a video crew to the official opening ceremony where Joshua's mother is planning to have a "feed" which is a traditional American Indian ceremony with meat and pot luck food.
June 23, 2008 Exciting News!! The new playground is going up today!! The rain finally stopped and city employee Don Coffman and Harlem resident Kermit Johnson were finally able to level the playground area last week. So it's a go. Lorri is still waiting for the playground sign to arrive but she's very excited and promises to take lots of pictures.
June 12, 2008
It's still raining! Lorri sent me an update: "Just wanted to let you know we’re still really wet up here. It rained all day yesterday. It snowed out at our ranch last night, which is 50 miles south of Harlem, in the Little Rocky Mountains. The forecast says it is suppose to warm up this weekend. We are going to need a few real warm days to dry things out. The shipment arrived today with the TuffTimbers edging that I ordered from Dakota Fence to go around the outside of the playground area. The sign I ordered for the park should be arriving any day. I’ll keep in touch, and let you know when we can get started putting up the new playground. Sincerely, Lorri"
June 4, 2008
It's been raining for the last two weeks up in Harlem, according to hero Lorri, and that's why the playground is still sitting in storage. The parts are all there and the hole has been dug in preparation but right now, "it looks more like a lake." So Lorri doesn't expect the installation to happen much before July. She will keep us posted.
May 22, 2008
The parts are in! I spoke to Robin, Lorri's co-worker, this morning who told me the parts arrived yesterday and as soon as the rain stops, volunteers are ready to install it. Robin's husband already dug the hole which will be filled with pea gravel before the installation. It will be ready just in time for summer. How exciting!
May 6, 2008
A very special letter came today...
My name is Brien Gault and I am a Lieutenant with the Glasgow Police Department, in Glasgow Montana. I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the generous donation of $25,000 towards completing the park in Harlem, Montana in Memory of Deputy Josh Rutherford. Josh and I instructed Defensive Tactics together at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy before his death. One thing about Josh that nobody will forget is that he only met a stranger once. He was a very great Father, Officer, and just a great person. If you ever want to see what Josh meant to people, go to the Officer Down Memorial Page ODMP and search his name and then click on Reflections. This is where people can leave a message for Josh and his family. He was truly a Hero and he will Never Be Forgotten. Jenny, I believe that you are a HERO in many peoples eyes in Montana.
Glasgow Police Department
Glasgow, Montana 59230
April 23, 2008 We just received an update from Lorri and want to share...
" Damon, Thanks so much for all you have done, and are doing to make this project happen. I've been getting prices on the ground covering for the playground today. Don Coffman, one of the
city employees measured and marked the park this afternoon for the safety zone around the structure. Things are moving along a lot more quickly than I ever thought possible. People in town are so excited about the project. All three radio stations in the area have been announcing the project the last two days. I think this is the best thing that has happened in Harlem for a number of years. It is so exciting. I still tear up every time I think about how Jenny surprised me last Friday. I'll keep you informed of our progress on this end.
April 21, 2008
We just placed the order for the playground and were told that it would be ready in 5 to 6 weeks. That's sooner than any of us expected. I was so excited I tried to call Lorri with the good news but her line was busy so I called Jeremy at the bank. He was surprised too and went to tell Lorri right away. He said there would be a dedication ceremony once it's installed with Joshua's family members attending. There are also plans for a memorial plaque to be placed in Harlem's City Park.
4/18/08: Jenny wrote... "Lorri, what a wonderful and long-lasting memorial this will be for your friend and community hero. I am honored to be able to help."
4/18/08: Damon wrote... "Hi Lorri, Your community is so lucky to have you. What a wonderful thing you're doing in memory of Deputy Rutherford. The new playground is going to be really great. Congratulations!"
4/18/08: Jeremy Kinyon wrote... "Lorri, Thank you for all of the work you did to get the new playground, I sincerely appreciate it. The community will benefit from the new playground for generations. Harlem is a small community and could not have been able to do this without help. Thank you Jenny!!!!!!!!! You have put a smile on a lot of children’s faces."
Jeremy Kinyon – Mayor of Harlem
4/18/08: Robin wrote... "As I watched how hard you worked to get things going on this memorial for Josh Rutherford I felt your frustration of not hearing from organizations you had applied to and then being turned down once. I am so happy for you and proud to work at the desk next to you. Thanks for doing this for all the children.
4/18/08: Anthony wrote... "Lorri, what a genuine and loving woman you are to carry deputy Rutherford's memory on."
4/18/08: Terri wrote... "Hi Lorri, what a wonderful thing you have done for the children and everyone in the community, as well as Deputy Rutherford's family and friends. You are what this country should be all about! Congratulations!"
4/20/08: Lorri's Parents wrote... "Lorri. You have always made us proud to be your Parents. You have succeeded again. May God always bless you in "special ways" as you always go the extra mile to help some one. In this, I am sure you have helped to ease some of the pain for Josh's family. I had always admired his honesty knowing him to be a true and dedicated police officer. His death affected many people unknown to his family. Josh set an excellent example for his sons. The playground equipment for the children is a reminder to them that good, honest values make HEROES. May he be a hero to all of them. So you, Lorri, in honoring Josh, have in turn honored All of your family.
We Love You..................Dad and Mom"
4/23/08: Sondra A. wrote... "Lorri, I believe you have no idea how far reaching your actions are and how instrumental you are in changing the face of our community. With people like you and Mayor Jeremy, our city workers and officials, the folks of our little town in the valley who have vision and the courage to put that vision into action, we will grow and emerge as a true jewel on the Plains. I am so proud of you. Thank you, Lorri, and thank you, Jenny."
12/23/08: Lorri's Grandkids wrote... "Grandma Lorri, Congratulations on your playground sponger from Jenny Jones again. Good job." LOVE, your grandkids