Maybe you’ve seen one of them. A sign along the freeway that dedicates the freeway to a person. I’ve seen them many times on my many travels, but a while ago I saw one that caught me off guard. I read the name and told myself, “I know that guy!” It was yet another reminder that the older I get, the more it seems I actually know some of the people behind the names on buildings, freeways and other commemorative signs and plaques.
There was a time in my life where the names on buildings meant nothing more to me than the name on the building. I had no idea who the person was behind the name or why their name was on the building. I remember reading my class schedule in college and the names of the buildings where each class would be held. It was only a building name, not a person. But now that I’m living in the second half century of my life, that has changed.
The freeway I recently drove was dedicated in memory of a former State Representative I met several times while doing an internship at the State Capitol while I was in college several decades ago. But it wasn’t the first time this happened. A couple years ago I attended a ceremony where they named a building after someone I knew. Then there was the new hospital wing I drove by with the name of a person I met during a job interview. In my early twenties I interviewed with him at the company he started. I didn’t get the job, but his company went on to be very successful.
As I reflect on this phenomenon, it makes me realize that someday the people I know with their names on buildings or roads will likely be forgotten by future generations. The name on the building or freeway will become just that. The person behind the name will fade away from memory. It will become a way to describe which road to take or building to go to. For me it was a sobering thought — that no matter how hard we try to make a name for ourself, eventually that name will fade from memory.