PILOT MOUNTAIN — Along with aiding his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout, a project undertaken by a Pilot Mountain youth will serve as a lasting tribute to two town officers killed in the line of duty.
It involved Austin Jessup’s development of a monument honoring the supreme sacrifice of Glenn Branscome and Ralph East in February 1969. The resulting granite creation will be officially dedicated Saturday morning when a memorial walk is held for the two marking the 45th anniversary of their fatal shootings.
The annual walk in Pilot Mountain will start from the parking lot of Tlaquepaque Mexican Grill at 511 E. Old U.S. 52-Bypass (also known as the Branscome-East Highway). The restaurant is at the intersection of Old U.S. 52-Bypass and Crestwood Drive.
Participants are to begin their trek after a short ceremony at 8 a.m. in the parking lot, with the walk progressing to the site of the tragedy on the bypass behind East Surry High School.
“We’ll walk the mile and a half to the site where they were killed,” Chet Jessup, Austin’s dad, said Tuesday of the route that follows the same path taken by the two officers the night they died.
“And that’s where the monument is sitting” the elder Jessup added, “122 feet from where they were killed.” The monument dedication will occur at the end of the walk, at around 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
With Boy Scouts required to spearhead a community service project in order to gain the Eagle rank, Austin Jessup’s choice was aided by the ongoing efforts of his father. Chet Jessup has organized various activities recognizing area law enforcement officers who have been killed on the job, including Saturday’s memorial walk now in its eighth year.
A Monumental Task
The process leading to the erection of the permanent granite monument for Branscome and East took about two and a half years from start to finish.
Austin, 17, a junior at East Surry High School, quickly learned that the project would require more than just throwing up a marker. It meant negotiating a maze of state and local hurdles, including securing permits and approvals.
The monument had to be positioned 75 feet off the centerline of Old Highway 52-Bypass, Chet Jessup said of one rule of the N.C. Department of Transportation that affected the marker’s placement.
Permission also had to be given by the Pilot Mountain Foundation, which owns the site, and a zoning permit was obtained from the town government. The monument is located on the property of Armfield Civic Center between Palmer Field and the East Surry High School baseball field.
There was also the question of money, which was addressed through fundraising activities led by Austin Jessup.
The granite was bought from North Carolina Granite Corp. in Mount Airy, which constructed the monument. Wholesale Monument Co. also was involved, including transporting the marker to its resting place for erecting, with the youth aided in that task by fellow members of Troop 545.
Dixie Landscaping of Pilot Mountain donated mulch for landscaping around the monument.
It contains a narrative that will explain to generations of onlookers the story of how Branscome and East pulled over a vehicle containing robbery suspects and paid for that with their lives.
Chet Jessup said the dedication of the monument will include a brief ceremony and ribbon cutting.
Van transportation will be provided for persons wishing to participate in Saturday’s event who are not able to walk.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.