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CORVALLIS — Not many people today remember Edward C. Allworth, but maybe they should.

A 1916 graduate of Oregon State University (then known as Oregon Agricultural College), he was instrumental in raising the funds to build the Memorial Union, one of the university’s most iconic structures, and went on to manage the MU for 38 years.

Students knew him as “the Major,” a reference to his Army service in World War I, where his heroic actions earned him the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award.

On Wednesday, Allworth (who is also the namesake of the veterans’ home in Lebanon) was remembered in a ceremony on the steps of the Memorial Union to dedicate the 12th and final marker designating U.S. Highway 20 in Oregon as the state’s Medal of Honor Highway.

The designation recognizes all 26 Medal of Honor recipients from Oregon and is the culmination of 10 years of work by the Bend Heroes Foundation, which sponsored similar designations on five other state highways to recognize Purple Heart recipients and veterans of World War I, World War II and the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

About three dozen people gathered for the ceremony, including a number of military veterans, several of Allworth’s descendants and relatives of Bend resident Robert Maxwell, one of the leaders of the highway marker project and, at 97, Oregon’s oldest living Medal of Honor recipient.

A number of dignitaries were on hand to make remarks, including OSU President Ed Ray, Corvallis Mayor Biff Traber, Bend Heroes Foundation Chair Dick Tobiason and state Rep. Knute Buehler of Bend.

William Elfering, OSU’s military and veteran resource adviser, provided a biographical sketch of Allworth and read from his official Medal of Honor citation. On Nov. 5, 1918, Allworth’s company was crossing a canal near Clery-le-Petit, France, when the bridge was destroyed, splitting his command. Calling his men to join him, Allworth swam the canal under enemy fire and rallied his troops, who then pushed back the opposing force, took 100 prisoners and secured the bridgehead for the Allied advance.

Noting that the Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor, Tobiason called the state’s 26 Medal of Honor recipients “the bravest of the brave” and said he hoped Oregonians who see the highway markers will be inspired by their example.

Buehler, widely considered the front-runner to become the Republican nominee for governor in the November election, called the Medal of Honor Highway a fitting recognition of Oregon’s veterans — but said the state should do more to reward their service.

“It’s a reminder of the freedoms and values that bind us together as Americans,” he said. “We need more issues that unite us, not only in this state but in our nation, and I think one of those issues is taking care of our veterans.”

The 12th Medal of Honor Highway marker, which was unveiled at Wednesday’s ceremony, was scheduled to be installed by state Department of Transportation workers later that afternoon on Highway 20 near Southwest 26th Street, just a few blocks from the OSU campus.

Tobiason, a retired Army major who served in Vietnam, is hoping to extend the Medal of Honor Highway concept beyond Oregon to include all of U.S. 20, which runs for 3,365 miles across 12 states from Newport, Oregon, to Boston, Massachusetts.

Following the ceremony, Tobiason explained why he felt compelled to honor Medal of Honor recipients. He said he wants the highway markers to serve as visible reminders of heroism and an inspiration to future generations.

“It’s something that has to be done,” he said. “It’s Americana. If we don’t leave a legacy for our youth, they will never know what this is all about.”

Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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