NEW LONDON — State Highway 23 between New London and Spicer is now officially the Spc. Ryane G. Clark Memorial Highway.
Clark, 22, a U.S. Army specialist from New London, was killed Oct. 4, 2010, by a rocket-propelled grenade in Shekhabad, Afghanistan.
The new road signs were uncovered at noon Sunday and about 75 people attended an afternoon dedication ceremony at the New London Fire Hall. The dedication took place on the national Gold Star Mothers and Families Day.
Clark’s parents Tracy and Rick said before the ceremony that the event was bittersweet, though they were glad to see the dedication. It took about six years to get the highway proposal through the Minnesota Legislature.
“It’s about remembering all of our fallen heroes,” Tracy Clark said.
“We are so grateful to the community we live in,” Rick Clark added. Community members have offered support in so many ways, he said. In addition to numerous donations for projects and scholarships to honor Ryane Clark, the New London and Spicer American Legion posts paid for the highway signs.
During the ceremony, Tracy Clark read a note her son had left his family when he left for Fort Bragg, “I say bye for now. When I return, everything will be different, which is not a bad thing. I will miss you all. Do not worry about me, but keep me in your prayers. We will meet again, love, Ryane.”
His mother looked up at the group and said, “I am 100% sure that when Ryane wrote this note, he did not mean when he finished his tour it would be in heaven.”
Tracy Clark thanked state Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, and Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia. Lang attended the dedication in uniform. He is a major in the Minnesota National Guard, currently garrison commander at the Arden Hills Army Training Site.
“It makes me happy” to have played a part in naming the road to honor Clark, he said.
The highway is the latest of the Clark family’s projects to honor their fallen soldier.
Four years after his death, a parking lot and memorial along Kandiyohi County Road 31 were dedicated to Clark. He had long wanted to develop the parking lot as a safe place for families to unload bikes to use the nearby Glacial Lakes Trail.
The parking lot is near the spot where Clark’s friend and classmate Cody Berg was killed in a bicycle accident in 1999.
The family has also established scholarships at New London-Spicer High School, where he graduated in 2007, and at Alexandria Technical College, where he had studied law enforcement.