The Cedar Shoals Memory Garden Project began in September 2002 following the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States. In memory of those lost, a “Freedom Tree” was planted. The project started with the help of The Green Acres Garden Club (GAGC).
During the construction of the new Cedar building, “in memory trees” that were planted for club members whose children passed were destroyed. This led to the project to establish the memory garden.
A committee from the GAGC was tasked with finding a public place to plant the “Freedom Tree.” The committee reached out to then-Principal Charles Worthy about planting the tree in place of the destroyed “in memory trees.”
GAGC then adopted the project and established the Memory Garden on the Cedar Shoals campus.
The garden has blossomed from a memory tree and a few beds to a memorial of brinks with over 300 names engraved.
The memorial bricks started in 2003. Through emails, radio interviews, and the newspaper, many families were reached to compile a list of students, personnel, and staff that have passed. Local businesses were also informed about the project to help raise funding and to make it a community event. The memorial was placed on the patio of the outside lunchroom.
Former Cedar Shoals English teacher Beth Tatum, a GAGC member active in the garden, said, “Everyone who has a name down here had a part in Cedar Shoals. They may have only attended one year; they may have taught here for 30 years. There’s no Mr. or Mrs. or Dr.; it’s just their name. Some of them were murder victims some of them dropped out of school. It doesn’t matter. They were everything from a secretary, to a custodian, to a principal, and students.”
The garden is completely funded through donations, so the bricks come at no cost to families.
Former Cedar Shoals teacher Edell Raburn, a Garden Club member, said, “Our funds have gotten short now. We do not publicize as much as we should, but we’re still able to do this without any cost to families.”
The garden’s maintenance is supervised by GAGC members, but a few members of the community and some groups at Cedar help as needed.
The help of student groups at Cedar in the memory garden is becoming more important because GAGC members are less able to work in the gardens.
“We are older, our members are older people, and we couldn’t do it. But I kept suggesting that school groups would help sometimes and that we needed to clean up,” said Raburn.
The garden has been an important part of Raburn’s life, having taught at Cedar and helping start the garden too.
“I retired from Cedar Shoals in 1984. And when I retired, I did not take any other part-time job. I was very interested in this garden, and at that time, I was over there many days trying to keep things going. And it has been a part of my life ever since,” said Raburn.
“But I’m getting older and my body just doesn’t carry me that well, so it needs you people to keep it going,” said the 91-year-old.
Raburn does not believe the garden has had the impact on the community that the Garden Club envisioned as events to endorse the garden have been canceled because it has been poorly maintained at times.
“We were embarrassed that [the garden] had not been taken care of to the point of being pruned. We didn’t get the clean up done, and because it was not as attractive as we wanted it to be, we canceled for that particular time [October]. We thought maybe it would be the second Sunday of November but we’ve canceled it,” said Raburn.
“I hope that as we publicize the garden and as students become aware of it, they will take an interest in the school grounds, in the school, and in the makeup of our school population,” said Raburn. “We feel like then it will be the memory garden that we anticipated having.”
Help and funding for the garden are not where they need to be, but with continued work and support from students and the community, the garden will keep growing.
“My vision for the memory garden, is that it becomes endowed so that we don’t have to continue to raise money for it. And that there becomes some sort of a very formal established of alumni and gardeners that work together to keep it vibrant and alive,” said Tatum.
“With the help of students, I say lets keep it going and make it a community-wide area that people will be proud to memorialize those who have died but even more, to see what those people who were here at Cedar have contributed to this area,” said Raburn.