“To the memory of our friends” was inscribed on a brass plaque held by Principal David Nelson as he talked about the history of the Pine Mountain Middle School Memorial Garden. Dedicated on May 14, 1985, to the memory of staff, faculty and students who had died, the garden began with the names of two staff/faculty members, and, through 1994, the names of seven more members of the learning community were added.
After almost 40 years, the plaque has aged, and some names are fading, but Pine Mountain Middle School (PMMS) leaders want to ensure the school keeps their memory alive. Nelson has taken on the role of keeper of the garden’s history, and from talking to his predecessors, he learned the intention of the garden was to respectfully honor deceased members of the PMMS family, in a way that also would greatly enhance the campus. It also would serve as a place that students and staff could enjoy and where families could feel their loved one was an important part of the learning community. As the current principal, Nelson said he is honored to build upon the work of those who came before him.
The garden has not changed much during the past 37 years, except for when it was rededicated in 2004. Around that time, clerk Pat Arnold, Assistant Principal Lisa Jackson and Principal Ivia Redmond organized efforts to add the existing pergola and seating areas for outdoor classes. Those additions have inspired ideas for future uses of the space.
“We want to continue to nourish the space and get it back to its former glory, to again be something our entire learning community can be proud of,” Nelson said. School leaders are working on new opportunities for former PMMS community members to purchase memorial markers for their loved ones, and there are plans to increase the seating in the garden to make it more functional for lunch or outdoor lessons. It’s small enough to be manageable, but it requires a strategic plan and commitment to make sure it stays aligned with its original intended use.
During the past few months, Nelson has been working with members of the Rotary Club of North Cobb to beautify the space. As with any garden, there is maintenance required to keep the weeds at bay, shrubs tidy and outdoor features looking new. Members of the Rotary Club recently joined the Kennesaw Mountain High School volleyball team to refresh the garden and create a plan for future improvements.
Nelson said Rotary President Nancy Prochaska has been instrumental in helping to rejuvenate the space and bring in local community and business support. The school’s partnership with the Rotary Club will continue, and, once the garden has been brought back to its former glory, a rededication will be planned, and everyone who played a part in the garden’s history will be invited. The timeline hasn’t been defined yet; the progress of the project depends on volunteer help.
Aside from physical maintenance, Nelson is asking for help in piecing together the history of the garden. “There are memorial markers in the garden that were purchased in memory of former loved ones at the school,” he said. “Many of the markers remain, but over the years, some have been lost to time or are no longer legible, due to the marker’s material.” A maintenance plan will be created to obtain new markers. Help is needed to identify names on the existing markers. Nelson would like to hear from anyone who purchased a marker to confirm information and update records.
Almost 20 years after the dedication, during the 2004-05 school year, the garden was rededicated. “This dedication was to honor Jack Hensley, a beloved substitute and parent who was one of three hostages kidnapped and killed while working in Iraq in the fall of 2004, garnering national and worldwide attention,” Nelson said.
Volunteers are needed to help with weeding, adding mulch and pine straw, and pruning. Financial contributions also are appreciated. For more information, contact Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Nicole Smith is a public health professional living in Kennesaw with her epic houseplant collection and two senior dogs, Jax and Lily Grace.