After 15 years of volunteering his services, Harry Adams, 87, retired as the caretaker of the Shafer Elementary School Memorial Garden -- and he hopes an individual or group will replace him.
Adams took over the garden after teacher Bob Johnson retired from Shafer. Johnson served in the Army Tank Corps in World War II, according to Adams.
Johnson created the memorial garden in dedication to all of the men and women in the U.S. armed forces -- he wanted the garden to be a place for people to “rest, reflect and respect," Adams said.
Adams retired from taking care of the garden on July 1, and is "very disappointed that no one has stepped up to the plate."
Also a WWII veteran, Adams served in the U.S. Navy. His motivation to keep the garden going all of these years? The men and women who didn’t come home. According to Adams, the servicemen who died at sea were buried at sea.
“That’s not easy to forget,” he said, adding that many families never had a chance to bury their sons, brothers and husbands.
“It helped knowing that I was doing something in remembrance of those who didn’t come back,” he said. “I try to impress on the kids what price was paid for their freedom.”
The memorial garden is at the corner of the elementary school’s property, but is meant for the community, according to Adams. It is 80 feet wide and spans a total of 320 square feet. There are 64 rose bushes and seven flower beds -- 200 bedding plants in each bed.
“We have big shoes to fill," William Mudlock, principal of Shafer Elementary, said about Adams. "It will probably take a committee to do all he did.”
The lack of help for the garden is “unfortunate,” according to Rich Vickert, manager of the Northampton Farm Bureau in Tatamy, which has donated fertilizer and at least $300 worth of bedding plants over the last several years.
“If at any time we should be supporting our veterans, it should be now,” Vickert said, referring to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Vickert said the farm bureau volunteered to donate the items because many employees had children either in the Nazareth Area School District or at Shafer Elementary School. Plus, Adams had been a regular customer for years.
“We are still willing to donate,” Vickert said.
George Hildebrant, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 4366 in Nazareth, thinks the garden is a beautiful site to see. Every year, he rounds up a few veterans to attend the school’s annual Memorial Day ceremony.
It’s the veterans’ busiest time of year -- preparing for Nazareth's Memorial Day parade and other events around the area -- but about seven veterans always make their way to the memorial garden at Shafer, Hildebrant said.
“Once they go, I don’t have a problem getting them to come back,” Hildebrant said. “We enjoy going every year.”
Hildebrant said he’s been impressed with how well the school prepares the children for the service.
“War [is] not a funny thing,” he said. “[The students are always] very informed.”
Hildebrant said he was disappointed to hear that no one has stepped forward to take over the garden. He said he would mention the situation to VFW members at their next meeting.
“We have hundreds of members, but the active ones are the older ones,” he said, adding that the younger veterans are busy with work and family.