SKOWHEGAN — Before the big flood of April 1987 sent sheets of ice slicing through the rest area on U.S. Route 2, east of downtown, there was a Blue Star Memorial Highway marker honoring American war veterans.

The flood swept the marker away, never to be seen again.

Now a committee from the Bloomfield Garden Club and Somerset Woods Trustees, which owns the rest area, are raising money to place a new blue star marker close to where the old one was.

“I think it’s important to replace what was here already. It’s to honor veterans, to honor those who have defended our country in peacetime and war,” club member Debra Burnham said. “Aesthetically, this is a beautiful place. People do stop here, in and out of town, so it would be educational for anyone who had never seen a blue star marker. It’s nationwide.”

A marker was placed there by the Narantsauk Garden Club of Madison on Sept. 23, 1973, according to Burnham. The rest area is now called Kennebec Banks.

The blue star became an visual symbol during World War II and was seen on flags and banners in homes, churches and businesses, representing sons and daughters away at war. The program has been active ever since.

The marker to identify the highways paying tribute to servicemen and servicewomen was designed by the National Council of Garden Clubs. While it was originally meant to honor World War II veterans, in 1951 it was expanded to include all men and women who had served, were serving or would serve in the armed forces of the United States, according to the garden club website.

The original program began when the New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs planted 8,000 dogwood trees in 1944 as a living memorial to veterans of World War II. In 1945, the National Council of State Garden Clubs adopted the program and began a Blue Star Highway system that covers thousands of miles across the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii. A large metal Blue Star Memorial Highway marker was placed at appropriate locations along the way, according to the website.

The Blue Star Highway Marker Program is supported by the National Garden Clubs, Inc. and the Garden Clubs Federation of Maine. The Bloomfield Garden Club is a member of both.

The marker will cost $1,470, shipping and handling included, Burnham said. It has a polychrome background with a copper center, shading to drab olive green. It has gold leaf letter faces and emblem border rings, and the star is blue.

The marker will be affixed to a 7-foot-tall aluminum post

A committee of four — Davida Barter, Marjorie Coburn Black, Burnham and Jeanne Shay — met in September and sent out 16 appeal letters to civic groups for their support. As of May 1, the Bloomfield Garden Club had received $875 but had $595 left to raise, Burnham said.

The club will hold its annual plant sale this year to raise money for the project. The sale is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. June 4 in the Skowhegan Savings Bank lower parking lot on Madison Avenue.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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