'How dare somebody?': Family outraged after roadside cross honoring late son is stolen

A roadside cross honoring 16-year-old Nathan Gourley, who died in a 2008 crash, disappeared last week near Scio. His family believes it was stolen.

A father pleaded for help Tuesday in finding whoever stole a roadside cross memorial honoring his late son near Scio.

The cross was put up after 16-year-old Nathan Gourley died in a crash nearly a decade ago.

"How dare somebody steal our cross?" Jack Gourley, Nathan's father, asked a KATU reporter. "That cross was put there by us and it's for us to remove if it should ever be removed."

Gourley said he and his wife, Arlene, have no idea who took it.

The cross was located off Richardson Gap and Larwood Drive, which are both county roads.

Darrin Lane, Linn County's roadmaster, said the county did not remove it. Oregon's Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Linn County Sheriff's Office said they didn't take it down either.

For Jack, talking about the stolen cross that commemorated his late son is tough.

"We're past, kind of past the crying stage," Jack said. "It's brought back a lot of raw emotions."

Jack said Nathan loved the family business of dairy farming.

"At the age of 8, he had callouses, you know, and he knew how to work," Jack said.

In 2008, Nathan was involved in a horrible crash. The boy was driving a farm vehicle that picks up bails of hay. He went to make a left turn onto Larwood Drive when investigators said a log truck tried to pass him and the two collided.

"Threw his body right out here behind where we're standing and killed him instantly," Jack explained while standing near the intersection. "His brother was in that field -- not only did he see it but he heard it and he ran from there to his brother's side and held him to the end. Called his mom and ... this is where we said our goodbyes."

The family put up the cross soon after, which Jack said became a symbol for the community.

With the help of state Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio, Arlene Gourley lobbied for and passed a bill in 2009 known as Nathan's Law. It toughened rules in careless driving cases involving farm vehicles with covered or enclosed driver's seats.

Last Wednesday, Jack said they noticed the cross and all of the flowers and decorations left by family and friends were gone.

"We're quite confident it's an act of vandalism, thievery," Jack explained.

His older son posted about it on Facebook and he said there was a huge outpouring from the community.

Now they're in the process of installing a steel cross to replace it.

"Everything's been donated," Jack said, "the metal, the powder coating, the cement, everything."

He said that steel cross, which is still in the works, will stand 4-and-a-half-feet tall -- no taller than that one it replaces. It will also have a concrete foundation.

"The best information I have available to me suggests that the memorial was located inside the public road right-of-way," Lane, the county roadmaster, told KATU via email.

He said a right-of-way is an area near roads which the county owns. But he said they typically don't remove memorials unless they pose a hazard.

Jack said the new cross should be installed sometime after Thanksgiving.

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