BOZEMAN — Alisa Allgood cherishes the letters between her mother and father they exchanged during their time serving in the Air Force.
“My dad, his name was Dick Allgood, Richard Dick Allgood. And my mom, her name was Sarah Allgood. And they were both in the Air Force and they were both captains in the Air Force,” says Allgood.
Dick and Sarah passed away in 2020. Like many families across southwest Montana, Alllgood still has the cremated remains of her parents on her mantle years after they passed away.
“We have a lot of veterans that are in our urns already. We call them mantle-ees because they sit on a mantel somewhere,” says Len Albright, Commander of American Legion Gallatin Post 14.
“My dad’s wish was to be buried at the veteran's columbarium at Sunset Hills Memorial Park," Allgood says.
There is one problem: Bozeman doesn’t have a veteran's columbarium. At Sunset Hills, you can see where the structure, known as a columbarium, to hold cremains was started. The project was spearheaded by veterans including the late Dick Allgood.
“Eleven years ago was going to be between one and $2 million, and we knew we could do it,” says Jim Korth, member of American Legion Gallatin Post 14.
However, construction costs have delayed the project.
“Weather and COVID set us back about two years. Now, after all these years, the price has gone up and looking at around $5 million,” says Korth.
Right now, each columbarium costs about $500,000 to construct. The plan is to build two in the short term with six in the long term.
“There's frustration out there. It's slow moving and we would like to see, you know, hopefully by this time next year, a little bit more, you know, concrete up top, formalized turf grass,” says Tom White, Bozeman Parks and Cemetery Superintendent.
Members of the American Legion are trying to raise funds to cover the costs. The city of Bozeman has also allocated some money to the project.
“Make some strides because we were allocated some money out of the general fund. I want to be able to like, start, you know, having the ability to use this fine asset. Just the slow movement of funding construction, construction costs,” says White.
Allgood and other families are also raising money to finish the project.
“Thirty-four percent of the total veteran population in the state of Montana lives in the Gallatin Valley. So we thought what a better place to have a veteran's cemetery where you don't have to go and travel a long distance to see your loved one,” says Albright.
Back at Sunset Hills, the foundations for the columbarium are beginning to take shape.
“We're shooting for is by the end of next summer, having at least one columbarium,” says Korth.
For Allgood, that is one step closer to fulfilling her father’s wish.
“It would mean the world to have a place to go and to honor them on Veteran's Day, to go and visit and to know that I was able to complete their wish,” says Allgood.
If you would like to donate and help fund the project, the Southwest Montana Veterans' Alliance has an account set up at First Interstate Bank.