Remembering Lives Lost On America's Highways

Christmas Roadside Memorial West Linn Highway 43 OregonContemporary American Icon

A contemporary icon of the American landscape is the roadside memorial, reflecting cultural, religious, and American individuality. However, both the religious and secular alike have adopted the roadside memorial. Today, roadside memorials are everywhere across the panorama of American highways, major streets and even country roads. Roadside memorials accomplish communication, remembrance and reflection.

Hide a Way Bar and Grille Roadside Memorial HIllsboroRoadside Memorials Found in Many Places

Roadside memorials can be found at village entrances, up on high points, at outer borders of towns, and along main roads or crossroads. They appear on telephone poles, highway barriers, road medians, signposts, and even bridge overpasses. Some roadside memorials even appear on the vehicles themselves as bumper stickers and window decals serving as a new type of death notice.

Or as shown here, a business marquee may serve as a memorial. Or below, as on a street light post.

Beaverton Light Post Street Sidewalk Roadside Memorial

Roadside Memorial at Panda Express Hillsboro OregonUnique Purpose of Roadside Memorials

Roadside memorials serve a different purpose than the traditional memorial headstone or obituary. They alert all passersby that somebody died at that specific location. They are often created as reminders of fatalities from automobile accidents or drive by shootings. They are not erected for those who died of natural causes, at home, or in hospitals. In the state of Maryland, the "Department of Transportation in 2004, estimated that markers were erected after 10% – 20% of all fatal crashes."

Roadside Memorial Boring Oregon

Sandy Oregon American Roadside Memorial Double Cross

Bowlers Roadside Memorial Rogue River Southern Oregon Interstate 5Roadside Craft Honors Lost Loved Ones

Most roadside displays are constructed or created by family and friends of the deceased, and items are not products purchased from the funeral home or cemetery. Some items that can be found at roadside memorials are: candles, flowers, wreaths, photographs, messages, decorated rocks, shells, cigarettes, sea shells, crosses, framed pictures, hearts, doves, American flags, tinsel, prayer cards, ribbons, whirligigs, pinwheels, shoes, hats, school insignia, medals, trophies, nicknames of the deceased, hand written notes, memorabilia, etc. In the event of youth’s death, sometimes the tribute is a spray-painted message on the black top, asphalt, or a nearby wall. Or as is shown in this photograph, the family decorated this memorial with bowling gear.

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