A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Memorials speak to us at Talking Waters

Written May 26th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

This rock-garden memorial is one of two at Talking Water Gardens.

The day before Memorial Day, the bike took me to Albany’s Talking Water Gardens in search of a painted-rock memorial that a reader had told me about. I found it — and another one, too.

At both spots, dozens of little rocks with painted messages honor the memory of men who served in the armed forces during war. One is for Masao Taniguchi, an Army veteran of World War II and Korea who died in 2011. The other remembers Spencer Biegel, a West Albany High School graduate and Marine Corps veteran who died in 2015.

Spencer Biegel’s obituary appeared in the Albany Democrat-Herald, and you can look it up here.

I couldn’t find an online obit for Masao Taniguchi. But the words on the plaque at his little rock garden make me think he was related to Diane Taniguchi Dennis, who was Albany’s public works director when the Talking Water Gardens was built and who came up with the name. (The original version, though, if memory serves, was “Talking Waters,” with the plural “s.”)

In any case, this expanse of artificial wetlands is a good place for a nature walk, and not just on somber occasions like Memorial Day. I don’t know how long those rock arrangements have been there, or how long they will stay. But while they’re in place, they certainly add points of interest for visitors to take in. (hh)

As the inscription says, clean water — and cool — was the Water Gardens’ goal.


Lots of painted stones in the memorial for Spencer Biegel.


A closer look at the colorful arrangement.

Posted in: Commentary

17 responses to “Memorials speak to us at Talking Waters”

  1. Floyd Collins says:

    Hasso, as I recall Diane’s dad passed away while living in West Salem. Might find obit in Statesman J.

  2. Michele says:

    Thank you for highlighting the memorials. These are lovingly maintained mostly by Patricia Knippel and a lot of the rocks come from people in our Facebook group, Linn County Rocks.

  3. Patricia Knippel says:

    Thank you for this awesome article about the Memorials at Talking Waters Garden …we have a Facebook page..just look up Talking Water Garden Memorials…The people of Linn County have been awesome helping to keep the Memorials and Linn County Rock group have been so awesome in contributing rocks! We have met people from all over the country at the Memorial… and what a blessing the children have been! It’s become a place for parents and children to discuss life and death … loyalty…freedom…honor…etc…If you ever want to expand or write another article we have pictures! The Spencer Biegel Memorial with the rocks began on a July 1st 2017 and with encouragement of other walkers and rockers we began the Memorial fo Masao Taniguchi by April of 2018

  4. Gaulke says:

    Thanks, again, Hasso, for enlightening us on little-known gems of the area.
    We had heard of the Garden years ago; but, to date have not ridden to see it.
    Now we have reason to go.

    Sherry & Tom

  5. Bill Kapaun says:

    It should be called “Boondoggle Pond”.
    A band aid to cover a malfunctioning sewer plant with money laundered from the Parks Dept.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The wetlands project had nothing at all to do with the solids-handling function of the treatment plant, which is the part that didn’t work as expected. And parks money was not spent on it. The comment is without foundation.

  6. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The memorials are touching.

    But let’s not ignore the purpose or cost of Talking Waters. It “is supposed to further clarify already treated wastewater from Albany, Millersburg and ATI Wah Chang, while also cooling it a bit during the summer to benefit some fish runs in the Willamette River. The cooling means virtually nothing to the much bigger flow of the Willamette, where the talking waters eventually go.”

    Gee, I wonder who wrote that? The purpose remains unmet. So this public works investment transformed into a walking and biking park.

    And TW cost $14,000,000. Public money paid for $10,750,000. For what is effectively a park.

    Public spending is about priorities. Was spending $10,750,000 of public money the highest priority back in 2010-2012? Of course not. But deceiving folks into thinking TW was an environmental necessity won the day. Shameful.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “The cooling means virtually nothing to the much bigger flow of the Willamette, where the talking waters eventually go.”

      There you go again. Let’s all go back to the good ole days of the river being a toxic waste dump & cesspool… Yeah, that’s the ticket! Let someone else try and help fix the problem. Let’s not do anything to try and improve the water quality. They do cooling. There are ongoing issues as to the design & efficacy of same to do what was in the contract.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        The words are Hasso’s, not mine. But I agree with Hasso’s conclusion.

        Nobody said go back to “toxic waste dump & cesspool.” That’s just hyperbole on your part.

        And nobody said “Let’s not do anything to try and improve the water quality.” Again, that’s just you creating a caricature and then pinning your deceit on me.

        Be honest, Ray. You simply screwed up when you supported this project. Where is accountability? Clearly not in Albany now, nor during your reign.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          “You simply screwed up when you supported this project.”

          I get that you’d vote “no” on almost any city expenditure. I’m sure glad I don’t live in your dystopian idea of a community…

          “Where is accountability? Clearly not in Albany now, nor during your reign.”

          I’ll put Albany’s accountability against any city of comparable size you can name. Every single transaction is available to the public.

          You wear your heart on your sleeve. I stand by what I said.

  7. Jim Engel says:

    Hey Bill….ease off. In 100 years it will be thought of as a great idea for an open area in by then a gigantic city. What would you rather have a hodge podge of multi-story apartment buildings!!??

    As to the memorials, maybe the Parks Dept ought to come up with some guidelines for these memorials so they don’t spread like billboards.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      “As to the memorials, maybe the Parks Dept ought to come up with some guidelines for these memorials so they don’t spread like billboards.”

      That’s a very valid point.
      What’s to prevent our parks from becoming virtual cemeteries?
      Some people just want a walk in the park. If they want to go to a cemetery, they go to a cemetery.
      Memorials should not be “forced” upon the general public.
      I feel sorry for the families involved, but when you get down to brass tacks, you have no right to build your memorials on public property. We own it too.

      What if someone creates an “inflammatory” memorial?
      ACLU steps in to protect “freedom of speech” and the end result will be no memorials.

  8. DeeDee Biegel says:

    I just want to thank you, Hasso Hering, for exposing the memorials at Talking Water Gardens this Memorial Day 2019. I am Spencer Biegel’s mom and was so delighted to see your article, it’s been so rewarding. I also want to mention the two persons that initially put Spencer’s plaque in this location: Mandi Schwendiman, Albany Acupuncture Clinic and my daughter, Stacey Schilling (Spencer’s sister). They wanted to honor Spencer and thought the serenity of Talking Water Gardens was a fitting place to do this.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Thanks very much for your kind response. I’m grateful to you for telling me how this memorial came about. My regards to you and your family. — Hasso

  9. Jillene Tarpenning says:

    And back to the Memorials!….Geez

    Thank you for nice article about the Memorials at Talking Waters and honoring these two men protecting our freedom. It’s been nice taking our peaceful nature walks listening to the birds, watching the waterfalls, watching the ducks and ducklings, looking for all the different birds and listening to them sing. Kids questioning how many turtles, birds, snakes, frogs we will we see today? On our beautiful walks we have the opportunity to honor two men that fought for us. The kids like looking at the Memorials and thanking them for their service before we leave to continue our walk. The Memorials are not in anyone’s way and are in good condition, pleasant to look at. What a great peaceful place for them.

    • centrist says:

      copy all of what you said
      Explored many pioneer cemeteries in the US and CA. Never a critique about “presentation”. The only consistent question “What is your story?”


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