An idea two years in the making came to fruition on Friday as a 144-pound metal time capsule filled with documents and other memorabilia was laid in place at the 9/11 Global War on Terrorism Memorial in Tuolumne. 

The project began as a combined effort one day while veterans Frank Smart, of Columbia, and Aaron Rasmussen, of Tuolumne, were having lunch. Smart said they “wanted to do something to honor both 9/11 and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Smart became the project manager and contacted organizations throughout Tuolumne County to request documents that reflected the theme of the time capsule: the fabric of life in Tuolumne County. 

Some of the contributors to the capsule included government offices, Habitat for Humanity, the Center for a Non Violent Community, and various churches and schools. A book about the Iraq War and veterans’ pins and patches were included. Smart said that the contents “were like a Strawberry Music Festival program” in that there was a great variety “but not as much as I had wanted.” 

During the ceremony, Rasmussen spoke up and reminded the crowd that Valentine’s Day was coming soon and that his contribution to the capsule included a love letter written by his wife, Monica, to him before their son, Wesley, was born seven and a half years ago. He hoped that his son might be able to attend the opening of the capsule on July 4, 2076 — the tricentennial of the United States — and hear the letter being read.

Roger and Judy Haughton, of Twain Harte, were instrumental in providing the funding for the project and brought their grandchildren, Cole Haughton, 12, and Isabella Haughton,10, both of Danville, to witness the event. The Haughtons said that history was important to them. 

Judy Haughton said that she grew up in the Vietnam War era and saw “a lot of disrespect for soldiers” and added that now “there is a need for them to be honored and respected.”  

Sonora resident J. Michael Wharton, a Vietnam veteran and architect for the entire memorial and time capsule project, was on hand to guide the capsule in place and to make sure the capstone set level. He humbly stated that he “was grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the project.”

Contact Shelly Thorene at or (209) 770-7154.

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