Family upset Milton High School memorial removed, but district says it's planned for historic display

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Jake Magee
September 10, 2015

MILTON—A Milton family is upset that a sign memorializing a family member was removed from the high school football field, but school district officials said the sign will be part of a future historic showcase.

The district has been replacing signs that represent pieces of schools' history before each building was under the Red Hawk logo.

Karen and Ritchie Thomson were surprised to learn a memorial sign honoring Ritchie's late father, Lyle Thomson, which had been on display at Milton High School since 1988, was removed in recent weeks. They weren't told the sign would be removed, they said.

“Needless to say, that was very upsetting, and we went right through the ceiling,” Karen said.

The sign reads “In memory of Lyle” and refers to high school students as the Redmen, the controversial Native American-esque mascot the district replaced in 1999 with Rocky the Red Hawk.

“I'm sorry they changed the name from Redmen to Red Hawks, but that should have nothing to do with it,” Karen said.

A plaque next to the sign explained it was in memory of Lyle and in recognition of the high school's success when it had the Redmen logo. The plaque and sign now sit in a maintenance shed in Schilberg Park, said high school football coach Russ O'Leary, who saw them there.

District officials said the sign is being stored to preserve it until it is refurbished for a historic showcase planned to be finished by summer 2016, the 50th anniversary of the first Milton High School graduation.

“There are plans to put a lot of different historical artifacts up in celebration of Milton history,” Superintendent Tim Schigur said.

The district is still figuring out the logistics of the display, but it could end up as a walkway showcasing anything related to the history of the district and community—including Lyle's memorial.

Schigur compared it to going to Miller Park and seeing Milwaukee Brewers logos in the grandstands and references to the Milwaukee Braves in the halls and trophy cases. The goal isn't to tuck the historic display away, though, he said.

“We're evolving as a school community, but we can still regard and respect our school history,” Schigur said.

Miscommunication led to the sign's removal before the Thomsons were informed, Communications Supervisor Jerry Schuetz said.

“It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, intentional,” Schuetz said.

High School Principal Jeremy Bilhorn has since contacted the Thomsons and explained the situation.

“We found it very upsetting that they went in and did this and didn't make an effort to even find anybody,” Karen said.

Lyle's sign isn't the only memorial that's been removed. The district will unveil at the end of the month a new LED marquee sign to replace the old one, which also is a memorial, Schigur said.

That family was notified before removal of the marquee, which also could be part  of the historic display.

Karen isn't convinced there will ever be a historic display. Having worked for the school district, she knows things are sometimes said and then never followed through on, she said.

“I feel that they're saying that to justify taking down the sign, and that maybe by spring it will just go away," Karen said.

“It would be nice if they put it up in the football field, because that's where it belongs," she said.

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