Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Bricks will fund Gygax memorial

by Chris Schultz

April 10, 2014

Gail Gygax doesn’t want to run out of money while building the memorial to her late husband in Donian Park.

So, at her request, the Lake Geneva Board of Park Commissioners at its April 2 meeting recommended that Gygax be allowed to sell bricks that will line the flat area around the base of the memorial.

The city council will have to give final approval.

Gygax presented the board with certification that the Gygax Memorial Fund is indeed a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization.

City Administrator Dennis Jordan, who attended the meeting, said the city attorney wanted to make sure that the bricks are sold through a nonprofit organization and not the city.

Gygax said she wants to sell the bricks to finance the 25-year maintenance fund now required by the city for memorials.

Gygax said friends, lovers of Dungeons & Dragons, and even gaming companies, have approached her about dedicating bricks at the memorial.

She estimated that between 350 to 400 bricks will be sold.

The memorial fund, meanwhile, has raised more than $200,000 toward building the memorial, Gygax said.

The bricks will only have names, Gygax said. Names of companies, corporations, gaming groups and individuals, all who want to pay homage to one of the creators of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game.

Gygax has said that she wanted to see construction of the memorial begin this year, but that may have to wait until brick sales start up.

In November, Gygax introduced Wisconsin sculptor and artist Gerald P. Sawyer as the memorial’s artist. Sawyer is noted for creating the bronze statue of actor Henry Winkler as the character Fonz from the “Happy Days” television show. The statue stands on the Milwaukee Riverwalk.

Sawyer also has Lake Geneva ties. He did the repair work on the Andy Gump statue and the Three Graces Fountain in Flat Iron Park.

Later, in an interview, Gygax is very forgiving of the occasional bumps and grinds that go with getting things through city commissions and committees.

“I view it as a process,” she said. “Let’s work through the issues.”

She said she has nothing but positive feelings from the city.

“These guys have been wonderful,” she said.

“It’s for the fans,” she said of the memorial.

And the memorial is just the start, Gygax said. She also wants to do a collection of TSR and fantasy art and the old TSR board games. She hopes to have them exhibited at the Geneva Lake Area Museum.

Gygax said she’s also working with the Games Learning Society in Madison to design interactive features for both the memorial and for an exhibit planned for the Geneva Lake Area Museum.

Gygax said her goal is to encourage families to play more games together.

“You game together, you stay together,” she said.

However, while Gygax and the city have been patient with the process, there have been some glitches.

While the city requires that memorials erected in the city have a 25-year care fund, nowhere in the ordinance does it say what constitutes an adequately-funded maintenance fund, said Mayor Jim Connors.

The mayor also pointed out, there’s no indication of what happens to any leftover maintenance money after 25 years.

And, while the Lake Geneva Plan Commission in 2011 approved locating the memorial in Donian Park, there are no maps marking where the monument will be erected, although there are photographs of where the memorial is to be.

Generally, the memorial site is described as a 10-foot-by-10-foot section next to the first bench along the Mill Race from Center Street.

As recently as December, Gygax asked the park commission if she might move the site further east and closer to Highway 50.

There, she said, it would be visible from the highway and across the street from the Geneva Lake Area Museum, where Gygax hopes to install an interactive display devoted to D&D and her late husband’s work.

Where the proposed site of the memorial is now, there will be an 8 to 10 foot drop along the back of the memorial that will require a railing and a retaining wall, she said.

Gygax told the commissioners that she wasn’t demanding the city change the location, she was merely asking that it reconsider.

The fence and retaining wall will add to the cost, Gygax said.

No cost estimate for the memorial has been released.

Gygax had been working on the memorial with the city since 2009.

Her late husband, E. Gary Gygax, grew up in Lake Geneva and spent his last years here as a resident. Gary Gygax is internationally known as one of the creators of the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, also called D&D. He impacted millions of people in all walks of life through his role in creating and marketing D&D, one of the most popular games of the last 50 years.

Gygax died March 4, 2008, at 69.

A recently-released drawing of the memorial shows it topped with a bust of Gary Gygax, and beneath the bust a winged dragon grasps an open book.

On the memorial is the game’s motto: “Gateway to Adventure.”

In 1972, Gygax founded a game publishing company called TSR, for Tactical Studies Rules, in Lake Geneva.

TSR published Dungeons & Dragons. It also produced a wide variety of other games and several game-related fantasy and science fiction books, some written by Gygax.

In 1985 Gary Gygax was forced off the board of directors by the company manager, who was able to amass a majority of the company’s stock.

Despite losing his company, Gygax would continue developing other games independent of D&D.

TSR was later bought by Wizards of the Coast in 1997. The TSR name was dropped in 2000.