By Royal Barnard
General Wing descendants Katrina Wing and sons, and Megan Foley, and Mark Foley, Jr. joined Garden Club presenters and dignitaries for a group photo after the ceremony, Saturday.
On Saturday, July 9, under rainy skies but sheltered by a large tent, the Rutland Garden Club produced a wonderful event to honor veterans.
Across the nation there are official markers designating certain routes as “Blue Star Highways.” This initiative came about in 1945 and the Woodstock Avenue Blue Star marker was erected in 1947 to honor the Vermont Veterans of WWII in the name of Rutland native General Leonard F. Wing.
In 1951 the Blue Star Memorial Highway Program was enlarged to include all men and and women who had served, or who would serve, in the Armed Forces of the United States. This includes our existing sons and daughters around the world now serving in a time of great risk and terror.
For the event Saturday, members of the Rutland Garden Club, under the leadership of Martha Dwyer, restored the deteriorating marker, spruced up the garden and put on a proud and fitting rededication ceremony.
The event kicked off with a Garden Club welcome by club emcee Esther Swett, civic beautification co-chairwoman, and was followed by an invocation by American Legion Chaplain Lorraine Bedard.
Next was an Honor Guard Presentation of Colors by members of Rutland American Legion Post 31 and VFW Post 648 arranged by Ron Fairbanks, followed by a unifison reading of the American Pledge of Allegiance.
Presenters included Garden Club members Jan Semp and Zip Barnard, who related the history of our local Blue Star Marker. Both members, along with Mrs. Dwyer, were subsequently honored with the Garden Club Golden Trowel award, reserved for outstanding achievement.
A military perspective and significance of the site was offered by Vermont National Guard Captain Mathew Hefner, who appeared in sharp military dress and great spirit consistent with his position.
Next was the reading of the official rededication by Lori Peirce, the Vermont Blue Star Memorial Highways chairperson. She was accompanied by Vera Bowen, National Garden Club New England director, who remarked later that “this was one of the best Blue Star dedications that she had ever observed.”
Finally American Legion bugler Jim Mills played a magnificent rendition of taps to conclude the ceremony.
The restoration of the Blue Star Marker and its rededication, as mentioned, are the direct result of the leadership and caring of long time Rutland resident and Garden Club member Martha Dwyer who gathered assistance from Jan Semp, Zip Barnard, Esther Swett, and other Garden Club members to bring the event to fruition.
Dwyer felt it important to maintain the marker in a way which demonstrates that we will not forget the sacrifices of those who defend us, and to insure that her generation did their part, she said.
Of particular assistance were Bob Peterson and Conrad Zeller of the Rutland Recreation and Parks Department and Michael Coppinger of the Rutland Partnership, who helped rescue the event with the last minute erection of a large tent for shelter from the rain. Audio support was provided by Atomic Pro Audio. Several other volunteers pitched in to support Martha Dwyer’s project and to honor our members of the Armed Services.
Dignitaries attending included Vermont senators Kevin Mullen, Peg Florey and Brian Collamore; Vermont Representative Larry Cooper; and Vera Bowen, National Garden Club New England director. Also present were several of General Wing’s descendants including Katrina Wing and two sons and Megan Foley, and Mark Foley, Jr.
Mark Foley, Jr. later said, “What a wonderful rededication and also a heartfelt tribute to Martha and her efforts for the Garden Club, and in particular her passion for the Blue Star memorial. For our family it is a physical reminder, and a tremendous source of pride.”