"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” said Kathy Heller, a committee member for the Memorial Garden at Shafer Elementary School in Nazareth, recalling a quote by Thomas Jefferson. The message of this quote is why she decided to get involved with the Memorial Garden -- again.
Heller, an original member of the Memorial Garden committee, was involved with the project more than 20 years ago, when Shafer Elementary teacher Bob Johnson first started working on the idea of the garden.
After Johnson retired, Harry Adams, now 88 years old, took over and has maintained the garden for 16 years. Last spring, he made a public request for helpers -- he had finally decided it was time to retire.
Heller, who is now a retired kindergarten teacher after 35 years of service, heard about the need for volunteers, so she stepped up to help.
“I know how meaningful [the garden] is to our veterans,” she said. “It is one way that we have of honoring those men and women who fought to make our country a better place.”
The garden is the setting for Shafer Elementary School’s annual Memorial Day program. Each year, the school invites more than 100 local veterans to be honorary guests, said William Mudlock, the school's principal.
The school also invites local dignitaries, Nazareth School Board members, district administrators and parents to the program, which consists of Shafer students and staff presenting speeches and singing patriotic songs, Mudlock explained.
“The Memorial Garden is an important aspect of our school,” Mudlock said. “It is a great way for Shafer to show our support to the men and women that had served and are currently serving in the armed forces.”
Heller added, “I hope that people will enjoy the beauty of the garden, and find it a place to remember, rest and reflect on what our veterans have done to make our county what it is today."
In addition to Heller, the committee consists of several other people who have helped in a variety of ways -- weeding, mulching, planting and ordering supplies. They include Frank Houser, Judy Bohard, Tammy Wells, Kerry Hahn, Jennifer Suwalski and, of course, Adams, who has taught the volunteers how to maintain the garden.
One of the new members, Frank Houser, said that he volunteered to help carry on the tradition of the garden and honor service members.
“They gave their blood, sweat and tears for this country,” Houser said. “I thought if I had some free time, I couldn’t find any better uses for it.”
Houser, a correctional officer for Northampton County by day, said he enjoys gardening. It’s hard work, but fun, he said. He even used to run his own landscaping business.
“It’s nice to see the project take root from the beginning,” Houser said. “Then you sit back and see everything done. It’s very rewarding to keep this alive and preserved for them. It’s worth it.”
Mudlock said he truly appreciates all of the hard work of the committee.
“The final product of what the garden is -- it's amazing,” he said. “Without their support, the garden would not look as beautiful as it does. Shafer is a community school and the support from parents and community members for projects such as this serves as a positive way to lead by example for our students.”
The project is funded through a small amount in the school’s building budget, Mudlock said. The Shafer PTO also sets aside a small amount for incidentals, and purchases items like the cake and beverages for the Memorial Day program, he said. From there, the garden program received a donation from Prudential and discounts on items purchased at the Northampton Farm Bureau, Palmer Nursery and RC Growers.
Adams, who has maintained the garden for so many years, said he ordered more than 1,500 impatiens, begonias, petunias and other flowers for the seven flower beds. The garden also requires 30 yards of wood chips that Houser unloaded and distributed on his own throughout the garden.
“It’s for a good cause,” Houser noted.
Adams swears he’s retired, but when the flowers arrived and the crew assembled to plant, he was right there alongside them.
“I’m just planting this,” Adams said as he dug holes for red geraniums and white petunias around the memorial plaque.
His late wife, Marion, had created this specific area of the garden with the plaque, Adams said. Now, he was planting it for her, he said.