Foley memorial project leads to discovery about oak tree

By GUY BUSBY
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 7/27/22

FOLEY — Efforts to improve a tribute to Foley World War II veterans led to a discovery that the actual memorial is not what many residents thought for decades.A small stone marker with a bronze …

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Foley memorial project leads to discovery about oak tree

Posted

FOLEY — Efforts to improve a tribute to Foley World War II veterans led to a discovery that the actual memorial is not what many residents thought for decades.

A small stone marker with a bronze plaque sits under a massive live oak at the northwest corner of John Foley Park. The plaque states, "Honoring our men and women in service in World War II. Foley Women's Club." The marker has no date and most people thought that the plaque was the city's memorial to World War II.

Research for plans by the Foley Beautification Committee and city council to add to recognition for veterans discovered there was more to the story, Brenda Shambo, city administrative assistant, said.

"I have found out some very interesting history about the monument, which isn't exactly a monument at all," Shambo said. "The big live oak tree is actually the living memorial, which is located to the left of the marker."

She said Paul Leonard of the Foley Public Library found articles from The Onlooker stating that the tree was planted as a sap in February 1943.

"The oak tree was planted honoring our young men and women of the community who are now or who soon will be in the service of our country. The tree was planted by Henry Lindell and a number of the FFA boys from Foley High School," Shambo quoted the story.

"The article goes on to note, 'our prayer is that their purpose, the service of these men and women may be accomplished in the shortest time possible and that before the tree has gained many inches in growth, they will be back home,'" she said.

The stone, plaque and flagpole were added after World War II and were dedicated in a ceremony on July 4, 1946, she said.

Mayor Ralph Hellmich said he and many other residents did not know that the tree was the actual memorial.

"What we didn't know, I've lived here my whole life and I did not know that about that. It was before my time, but the tree is actually the memorial," Hellmich said. "So, we know exactly when that tree was planted and it's a quite healthy live oak."

The council voted Monday, July 18, to approve plans for additional benches and pavers to be placed at the stone. The city will also install a larger flagpole.

"I think it would be a nice upgrade because we have always honored our veterans of all types and we are working on our other veterans' memorial to try to add something that will raise it to a higher degree," Hellmich said. "So this, I think, is a really nice project and it matches everything else in the park."

The council also voted to ask the U.S. Department of Defense to loan the city two World War II 76-millimeter anti-tank guns. The deactivated cannons are now in place in front of the city's National Guard armory.

The National Guard is moving to a new location and does not plan to take the guns to the new armory.

The cannons would be placed near the city's other veterans' memorial at Max Griffin Park on South Alston Street.

"We want to move them over to our park at Max Griffin, which we will use to bracket the entrance as you look from east to west," Hellmich said. "We're working on upgrading that park over there too and we think it would be a really cool addition."

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