WisconsinRoadsideMemorials

I came to this project through another life.

For 30 years I worked as a physician in the field of Emergency Medicine. I retired in 2013. Throughout my career in medicine I always maintained a passion for the arts and have actively shown my photography, paintings and sculptures. This project bridges those two worlds.

In 1991 I observed the construction of a roadside memorial at the intersection of East Washington Ave. and 4th St. in Madison, WI. At this location, two young East High School students died after being struck by a car while crossing the street. I happened to be the physician who took care of one of those girls, so this memorial struck a personal chord. This intersection also happened to be in my neighborhood, so I witnessed the memorial’s evolution over the next several months. I was immediately struck by its beauty, but what truly resonated was its organic personal nature. Woven into the roadside fence were colored plastic flowers, stuffed animals, hand written messages, bits of personal memorabilia and balloons. The wind from the passing vehicles interacted with the memorial accentuating the loose construction. There were no preconceived designs and there was no architect. It was a free-flowing improvisational community art piece paying tribute to these young women’s lives.

I regret that I never photographed that memorial site. It did, however, lead me to this project and ever since, I have photographed and documented these sites throughout Wisconsin. Roadside memorials are not a novel idea. In fact, I have seen hundreds in Central and South America as well as in the southwest United States. They are, however, relatively new to Wisconsin.

This website and all of my related endeavors are intended as another means of remembering these people and honoring their lives. It also gives me the opportunity to share these beautiful and intimate places with you.

Thomas Ferrella

[www.ferrella.com]