FRANKLIN — There’s a fork in the road on Route 182, just as you come into town. Right about the time some cell phones lose service. A small park with a large, wooden wagon sits just off the side of the road.
The space, called Galamander Park, is operated by the Franklin Historical Society. It pays tribute to the town’s past. But by mid-2018, it also will be honoring the military.
The Franklin Garden Club is sponsoring the installment of a Blue Star Memorial Marker at the park. Blue Star Markers are signs dedicated to the service and sacrifice of military members and their families.
In 2017, the group hosted a presentation by Linda Redman, Blue Star Marker chairwoman for the Garden Club Federation of Maine. After the discussion, Susan Levy volunteered to help initiate a memorial. Since then, she and other members of the club have contacted numerous members of the community to make the project happen.
Levy was relatively new to the club; she’d summered in Ellsworth for 45 years in a house on the Union River before retiring to a house beside Taunton Bay four years ago. As a Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, native, she worked as a teacher and evaluator for New York City schools for 35 years.
Her father, Murray Weisbrod, was an infantryman who served in Normandy, France, and in Germany during World War II. Her brother-in-law, Harry Levy, served in Vietnam. Her appreciation for their service helped inspire her to take on the Blue Star project.
“He didn’t talk about it much,” Levy said of her father’s experiences in battle. “He was a very private man. But we as a family were very proud of him.”
Levy began attending the Franklin Garden Club’s meetings — which have run from April to December each year since 1938 — about a year ago. She found multiple partners within the club to help her work on acquiring the Blue Star marker, including club President Joanne Brown and designer Sue Croteau.
Originally, they tried to make the marker a Blue Star Memorial Highway designation, which would encompass an entire stretch of road. Those distinctions need to be approved by lawmakers.
They approached State Rep. Richard Malaby (R-Hancock) to support the measure. But when he took it to colleagues in Augusta, the group was told they would have to wait until 2019 for the next round of designations.
But the markers can also just be memorials, which don’t require legislative action. The garden club members opted for the latter — after all, Levy said, the point was to have the sign honoring military service members and their families.
Then it was time to start fundraising. Levy and others pulled in commitments from No Frills Oil Co. in Hancock, the Ellsworth Rotary Club, the Franklin Trading Post and Champion Concrete Co., among others. Levy estimates that she’s contacted at least 100 people for this project, between fundraising efforts and logistical needs.
Next, the group will start planning the unveiling ceremony. They’re hoping to host the event at Galamander Park on June 14 — Flag Day. Levy’s plans include a color guard, a trumpeter playing “Taps” and a wreath to be laid in honor of veterans.
Long term, she just hopes the marker will serve as a reminder for people in Franklin of the sacrifices of service members.
“It’s something that I hope will make people smile with remembrance as they pass by,” she said.
The group is looking to raise $2,000 in total. They’ve paid $1,470 out of their own funds for the marker, and the additional costs will go toward maintaining a garden around the sign. The group is looking to make up the expense, as they fund a child each year to attend summer camp.