Since 2003, the Lewis and Clark Garden Club (LCGC) of St. Charles County, Missouri, has held their monthly meetings in the Weldon Spring Interpretive Center (WSIC). The LCGC has 22 active members and takes care of 2 garden beds at the WSIC Native Plant Educational Garden under the site’s Adopt-A-Garden program. In 2010 the LCGC contacted the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), seeking approval to install a Blue Star Memorial By-Way Marker as a tribute to the nation’s armed forces (see bottom of page for a history of the Blue Star Memorials).
The LCGC proposed placing the marker in the native plant garden bed that they have helped to maintain since 2005. Their goal was to give something back to the WSIC community that has supported their club, and to enhance the garden’s appearance. Club members held fundraisers to purchase and install a beautiful, 2,300-pound, pink mica memorial marker. It took the club about 2 years to raise enough funds to carry out their project.
On April 27, 2013, the LCGC dedicated the Blue Star Memorial marker at the WSIC. The dedication was hosted by Maxine DeRousse, LCGC president. The LCGC invited members of local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organizations, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), and other fraternal armed forces organizations to participate in the ceremony.
The Gateway Harmonica Club opened the ceremony and the Presentation of Colors was done by the only special-needs BSA Color Guard in the United States, Troop 724. After the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, the history of Blue Star Memorials was given by Ginny Terry, LCGC vice-president. Greg Schowe, chaplain for VFW Post 5077, gave a moving tribute to the military. The marker was unveiled by Darlene Bilyk and Grace Gorden (treasurer and secretary, respectively) of the LCGC, and the dedication was pronounced by Jimmie Meinhardt, the National Garden Club Blue Star Advisor. Randy Thompson, Weldon Spring site manager with the S.M. Stoller Corporation, accepted the memorial on behalf of DOE. A student from Lindenwood University, Derick Featherston, performed “God Bless America,” before the program concluded with a benediction by Don Moyer, member of the LCGC, while “Taps” was played.
Among the more than 75 guests were Judy Sheets, President, Missouri Federated Garden Clubs; Nan McCabe, District Director, Mid-Central Federated Garden Clubs; VFW Post 5077, O’Fallon, Missouri; BSA Troop 724, Crestwood, Missouri; BSA Troop 381, O’Fallon, Missouri; BSA Troop 856, New Melle, Missouri; and BSA Troop 918, Cottlesville, Missouri.
Weldon Spring site staff are honored to have a Blue Star Memorial By-Way Marker decorating the front entrance of the WSIC.
Blue Star Memorial History
The Blue Star Memorials are tributes to the armed forces that have defended the United States of America. The National Garden Clubs, Inc. is the parent organization for Blue Star Memorial Highways.
The idea dates back to 1944 when the New Jersey State Council of Garden Clubs beautified a 5.5-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 22 from Mountainside to North Plainfield, New Jersey. Approximately 8,000 dogwood trees were planted as a living memorial to the New Jersey men and women who served in the armed forces. The Blue Star, taken from the blue star of the service banner, was chosen to symbolize the memorial because it was used during World War II on flags and homes of families that had a son or daughter in the service. In 1951 the tribute expanded to include all men and women, who had served, were serving, or would serve in the armed forces of the United States.
Markers have been placed on thousands of miles of highways from the Atlantic to the Pacific, including Alaska and Hawaii. Memorial Highway Markers are found alongside roadways and at rest stops; Blue Star Memorial Markers are found at veterans’ hospitals, national cemeteries, etc.; and Blue Star Memorial By-Way Markers are placed in appropriate garden settings. There are now 70 Blue Star Memorials in Missouri.