Watkinsville Garden Club
Blue Star and Gold Star Memorial Markers
From the left: Pam Hendrix, Blake Giles, Bob Kraeling, and
From the left: Shirley McCorkle, Violet Dawe, Andrew
Marshall, Sheila Marshall, Lois Kraeling, Joyce Hardigree, and Barbara Bourque
The Watkinsville Garden Club held a dedication ceremony on March 30, 2021 for the Blue Star and Gold Star Memorial Markers installed by the club at the Oconee County Courthouse in cooperation with Oconee County and The Garden Club of Georgia, Inc.
Special guests were three Gold Star Families, veterans, Barbara Bourque, President of The Garden Club of Georgia, Inc. and Jan Thiese, Chairman of the Blue Star and Gold Star Marker Project. Also in attendance were city and county officials.
The moving ceremony was conducted by Master of Ceremonies, Frank Johnson, LTC, U.S. Army, Retired, a member of the Watkinsville Garden Club. The Junior ROTC Color Guard from Clarke Central High School presented the colors. Special music was provided by Alan F. E. Thiese, YNC, U.S. Navy, Retired. Rev. Dr. Lowrie J. Welton, COL, U.S. Air Force, Retired, gave the Invocation and Benediction. The ceremony concluded with a haunting rendition of “Echo Taps” presented by Regan O’Connor and Joel Garcia from the University of Georgia.
Junior ROTC Color Guard
Clarke Central High School
Frank Johnson, LTC
U.S. Army, Retired and a member of the Watkinsville Garden Club
A BRIEF HISTORY
The Blue Star and Gold Star programs had their start during World War I when families of servicemen would hang a banner, called a service flag, in a window of their homes. Captain Robert B. Quiesser, an Ohio National Guard veteran of the Mexican Border (1916), is credited with designing the original flag. The banner had a star for each family member in the United States Armed Forces. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star which stands for hope and pride. Those who had lost their lives were represented by a gold star. A silver star stood for someone incapacitated at home from wounds sustained overseas.
At the close of World War II, the National Council of State Garden Clubs (NCSGC) sought a suitable means of honoring U.S. service men and women. In 1944, Mrs. Lewis M. Hull, Garden Club of New Jersey President and future NCSGC President, and Mrs. Vance Hood, Roadside Chairman, decided that one thousand flowering dogwood trees would be planted along five miles of highway that had been designated the Blue Star Drive by the New Jersey legislature. The project was named for the Blue Star in the service flag which hung in windows of homes and business to honor service men and women. At the 1946 NCSGC Annual Meeting in New Orleans, The Blue Star Memorial Highway Program was adopted. In 1947, Mrs. Frederick R. Kellogg, NGSGC President from 1930-33, designed a marker that would identify the highways, known as the Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker. This was the first national project undertaken by garden clubs. From the highway marker evolved the smaller By-Way Marker, placed in such locations as parks and historical grounds, which was approved at the 1981 convention in Atlanta.
While the Blue Star memorials began to honor World War II veterans, its mission was enlarged in 1951 to include all men and women who had served, were serving or would serve in the armed forces in the future. In 1994 the memorial was modified to include the words “A Tribute to the Armed Forces of America.” A third marker, the Blue Star Memorial Marker, was added in 1996. This marker is used at National Cemeteries, VA Centers and other appropriate civic locations.
The Gold Star Memorial Marker Program was approved in May 2015. It is an adjunct program to the National Garden Club Blue Star Memorial Marker Program. The Gold Star Memorial honors the families of members of the Armed Forces of the United States who sacrificed their lives. Gold Star Families is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization created to provide support to those who have lost a loved one in service to our country through the US Armed Forces. All family members representing all conflicts and all branches of service of the fallen are included.