Dats Trucking sets 15th memorial cross for UHP trooper on property where atheist ban doesn’t apply

ST. GEORGE — A memorial cross was unveiled in Southern Utah Friday in honor of a Utah Highway Patrol trooper who died last month after being struck by a vehicle while trying to alert motorists of a low-hanging power line.

A 14-foot-tall cross memorializing Trooper Eric Ellsworth was erected along Interstate 15 among 14 other white metal crosses already standing. Each cross bears the name and badge number of a fallen Highway Patrol trooper killed in the line of duty, reminding the public of those troopers’ service and ultimate sacrifice.

See all the crosses. Watch the video top of this report. 

A memorial cross was erected along Interstate 15 in honor of Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Ellsworth who died last month after being struck by a vehicle, DATS Trucking, 321 N. Old Highway 91, Hurricane, Utah, Dec. 30, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
A memorial cross was erected along Interstate 15 in honor of Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Ellsworth who died last month after being struck by a vehicle, DATS Trucking, 321 N. Old Highway 91, Hurricane, Utah, Dec. 30, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

The crosses, placed on private property owned by DATS Trucking located at 321 N. Old Highway 91 in Hurricane, face northbound traffic and can be seen just north of I-15 Exit 16.

Don Ipson, a state senator and president and CEO of DATS Trucking, said he erected the crosses in 2007, following a lawsuit that had been filed alleging the crosses – originally placed near the areas where the troopers had died – violated the U.S. Constitution. The suit argued that the placement of crosses on public land violates the principle of separation of church and state.

The American Atheists Inc. and three of its Utah members sued the state over the crosses in 2005. They claimed the memorials suggested a state endorsement of Christianity. In 2010, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver agreed and ordered the crosses removed. State attorneys appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it declined to hear the case.

The Utah Highway Patrol Association said it had constructed the memorials in the Latin-cross shape, not for the purpose of endorsing any religion but because, in this roadside context, the cross, unlike any other marker, communicates to motorists passing at highway speeds the simultaneous messages of “death, honor, remembrance and safety.”

A memorial cross was erected along Interstate 15 in honor of Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Ellsworth who died last month after being struck by a vehicle, DATS Trucking, 321 N. Old Highway 91, Hurricane, Utah, Dec. 30, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
A memorial cross was erected along Interstate 15 in honor of Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Ellsworth who died last month after being struck by a vehicle, DATS Trucking, 321 N. Old Highway 91, Hurricane, Utah, Dec. 30, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

“Memorial crosses, in general, are secular symbols widely used to honor and respect the heroic acts and noble contributions of fallen public servants,” the Highway Patrol Association states on its website. “Roadside crosses, in particular, are secular symbols widely used to memorialize, and generally understood to represent, traffic-related and other roadside deaths.”

When Ipson, an honorary colonel with the UHP, heard the crosses had to be taken down, he notified the Highway Patrol Association of his idea to put all 13 memorial crosses, at the time, on his business’ property and offered to pay for them.

Ipson and his family have been “unbelievable supporters of the Utah Highway Patrol,” UHP Col. Michael Rapich said Friday after Ellsworth’s cross had been erected. “This is just one thing among hundreds of other things that they do.”

Utah Highway Patrol Col. Michael Rapich thanks Utah Sen. Don Ipson for his support of the Highway Patrol at the site of a memorial for fallen troopers killed in the line of duty, Hurricane, Utah, Dec. 30, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
Utah Highway Patrol Col. Michael Rapich thanks Utah Sen. Don Ipson for his support of the Highway Patrol at the site of a memorial for fallen troopers killed in the line of duty, Hurricane, Utah, Dec. 30, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

“You’ve been our champion in so many ways – we appreciate it,” Rapich told Ipson, adding: “This fight goes back a long ways.”

Ipson said supporting the Highway Patrol has been a life-long passion of his, adding that he personally knew two of the troopers whose names now appear on the crosses.

Ipson recalled being 12 years old when UHP Trooper Armond “Monty” Luke died in 1959 during a vehicle pursuit just outside of Panguitch, where Ipson grew up.

Years later, when Ipson’s son was 12 years old and his family returned to Panguitch, Ipson said Trooper Ray Lynn Pierson died of a gunshot wound within a few miles of where Trooper Luke had died.

Families of the fallen troopers have been appreciative of the crosses, Ipson said, adding that some families stop by to visit the memorial site from time to time.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Ed. note: Headline revised Dec. 31.

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • utahdiablo December 30, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Thank you Mr Ipson….for all you’ve done and continue to do to help us all.

  • Henry December 30, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    Thank you for your personal efforts to commemorate these heroes Senator Ipson, after the appeasement of these atheist zealots.

  • comments December 30, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    seem rather inappropriate as LDS don’t believe in a cross as their symbol

    • NotSoFast December 31, 2016 at 8:33 am

      Put a sock in it comments.

    • dogmatic December 31, 2016 at 8:54 am

      Why attach the cross symbol to a group when everyone knows what it symbolizes. Can’t we just honor the fallen troops.

  • .... December 30, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    This is absolutely tragic that we lost another trooper because of someone’s incompetence my condolences to the family and thank you for all you do Senator Ipson

  • Dusty December 31, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Good form Don Ipson! The reasoning behind using the cross as a symbol: “constructed the memorials in the Latin-cross shape, not for the purpose of endorsing any religion but because, in this roadside context, the cross, unlike any other marker, communicates to motorists passing at highway speeds the simultaneous messages of “death, honor, remembrance and safety” makes it completely appropriate. Tragedy, sadly, brings people together. We all need to be reminded how fragile life is.

  • amazingr4ce December 31, 2016 at 11:10 am

    I also want to say thank you to the Utah Highway Patrol for the work they do and the risks they take every day. Please remember to give officers and others on the side of the road plenty of room when passing. It is a terrible tragedy for police officers to be hit by passing cars in the line of duty. Get off your phones, drive aware, drive safe.

    This is a well-written article, but the headline reveals the author’s bias and ulterior motivation for covering this story. The atheists didn’t ban crosses on public land, the US Constitution did. To rehash the arguments of the case here seems a little disrespectful not only to Officer Ellsworth, but also to every non-Christian who doesn’t see the cross as a secular symbol. As a secular symbol, the cross is a reference to a brutal and barbaric method of torture. That’s a terrible way to remember a civil serviceman. The only way to turn that into a symbol of peace and reverence is to introduce the religious significance of this tool of torture. If you can’t see this, you are blinded by your own bias on the topic and you need apply some intellectual humility.

    • comments December 31, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      LOL, I hadn’t even noticed the title. Never heard the term “atheist ban”. Kimberly Scott, did u come up with that yourself or?

    • Henry December 31, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      You need to apply some critical thinking to overcome your personal bias and conspiracy searching.

      You feel that “the cross is a reference to a brutal and barbaric method of torture.” – really? Do you think that is why so many Christians wear crucifixes? Most would reply that they wear it as a symbol of love, forgiveness, and resurrection. Many churches have crosses at the top of their spires. Do you think that this is done as a means to intimidate non-Christians? LOL

      Your concluding premise is that the cross is “a terrible way to remember a civil serviceman.” So what do you propose to use as an alternate, visible means to memorialize these fallen troopers? Or are you just going to give lip service to their sacrifices?

      Or is your open-ended, circular logic just a means to justify your own hyper-sensitive desire to remove these “secular symbols widely used to memorialize, and generally understood to represent, traffic related and other roadside deaths”?

  • comments December 31, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    I’m in favor of memorials to those killed in public service, but let’s be fair, these big white crosses with placards nailed onto them are very very unsightly. I’d say they deserve better.

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