PORTSMOUTH — For 65 years the Portsmouth Garden Club has gotten its hands dirty at the tiny plot of land in front of Town Hall known as Legion Memorial Park.
On Friday the group continued its work honoring veterans there by placing a living wreath next to the World War I memorial.
“Just this year by a grant written by Carolyn Evans-Carbery, the Portsmouth Garden Club used an Aquidneck Land Trust community grant to amend the soil and replant the World War I and flagpole area where we shall place a living wreath today,” said Roberta Stevens, the club’s immediate past president and the events chairwoman of the 375th Anniversary Steering Committee.
Ms. Stevens gave a brief history lesson of the triangular park, located at the top of Quaker Hill and bisected by Hedly Street. The American Legion originally maintained the area, she said. “During World War II, there was garland and white lights which were required to be blacked out,” she said.
After planting three elms and three native cedars and placing a wooden anchor from an old British frigate, Legion’s interest waned and the Garden Club took over. “Since our club founding in 1934 our members have been committed to civic beautification and since receiving permission from the then-Town Council in 1948, 65 years ago this month, we have had this as our primary site,” said Ms. Stevens. “In the early years bushes were planted by the club on the grounds with plantings following ever since.”
The club has also added a cement pad, urns and various veteran’s stones and rolls. A liberty tree was planted early on to commemorate the Battle of Rhode Island, and in 1983 the Portsmouth Historical Society and Steve Boscarino built a bulkhead to house the cannon.
Also speaking at the wreath-laying Friday was The Rev. Michael Pike of Portsmouth United Methodist Church, who said that veterans and the people who maintain the park share a common link.
“You didn’t see all the hands that made this park so beautiful,” he said. “We see the freedom, but we don’t always recognize the work of the people who won our freedom. There’s a parallel there.”
Father Pike added that he felt “blessed and enlightened” to read the Portsmouth Compact, which established the town in 1638. He said the Compact’s phrase, “Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords,” demonstrated the faith of the town’s founding fathers.
“We should never waver from the pathway of freedom and democracy,” he said. “No we must walk forward … for our children.”