Altus Mayor T.L. Gramling recounted the occasion of a funeral service he attended about five years ago in a warm Oklahoma cemetery chapel to a gathering May 25 at the Altus Public Library.
The hundred or so in attendance came to celebrate the Centennial Memorial Kickoff and to hear and see the vision of a memorial to be built at the Altus City Cemetery in time for the 2007 Oklahoma Centennial Celebration. The event was hosted by the Altus Aldonian Club.
The mayor contrasted the funeral service experience with a graveside burial he attended in temperatures above 100 degrees. He envisioned a comfortable chapel in the Altus cemetery, he said, and discussed the possibility with former City Administrator Charles Martin.
Money for the potential project was put in the budget, Gramling said, and architect Jim Atkinson came up with the design.
The mayor is hopeful that the funds for the project can be raised and the memorial built for the 2007 celebration.
"I think it's something that our children can look back and say that 'we participated,'" he said.
Altus Planning Director Barbara Burleson explained that the Oklahoma Centennial Commission requires that one third of the overall $275,000 cost for the project be raised in order to register for the centennial.
"That will open the door for all kinds of centennial activities," Burleson said.
Atkinson, of GBA Architects, gave the grand tour of the proposed facility, pointing out features of his drawing.
The city, Atkinson explained, has set aside approximately 13/4 acres in a 300-foot-diameter area in the cemetery. Entryways into the proposed Centennial Memorial Center line up with Falcon Road on the north and Veterans Drive on the east.
About 34 feet of right-of-way come in from each direction, and the driveways into the center will use about 24 feet each, Atkinson said.
The center itself will be approximately 1,800 square feet, a small portion of the total memorial area of about 90,000 square feet.
It will seat about 70 people and will be complete with restroom facilities, a small kitchen and a family room for private gatherings. Covered parking will be available for the primary family vehicle as well as the hearse.
The building will include support for sound systems, electronics and lighting, maintenance, heating and air conditioning, Atkinson said.
Brick and stone veneer are planned for the building's exterior, and the roof will be shingled -- perhaps copper, so that it will shine under the sun's rays. A solid stone wall is planned for the inside, with stone veneer on the family room and surrounding areas.
A circular one-way drive, perhaps dropped about 10 feet and lined with hardy, long-lasting trees, will have curbs and gutters.
Other features include a columbarium and gardens to the south with a meandering walkway and two stained-glass windows -- one on the north and one on the south. Fountains are envisioned for the northeast side.
When completed, Atkinson said, the building and grounds are to be turned over to the city of Altus for maintenance.
The Rev. James Mahan, chairman of the Centennial Memorial Advisory Committee, shared his long-term vision with the crowd. "I think we ought to emphasize what we're thinking of here is something that's going be here a hundred years from now," he said, adding that it will be a place to celebrate joy and happiness, "not an old gloomy place."