FALMOUTH — A Blue Star shines again on U.S. Route 1, after three years of work and a formal re-dedication ceremony on Veterans Day.
A crowd of about 50 people gathered around the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker and the surrounding garden for the ceremony Monday at the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and Route 88.
The sign was erected nearly 60 years ago, but, in recent decades it had faded into the background and out of memory. Trees and weeds sprouted around the marker and overtook a garden that had been planted around it.
St. Mary’s Garden Club, the organization tasked with caring for the sign, had all but forgotten about it, said Carolyn Davis, former president of the club.
Davis learned about the marker by accident in 2009, during a presentation about Maine’s Blue Star Memorial Highway markers at a statewide garden club meeting. There, Davis found a list of all the locations.
“I looked down the list, and there was Falmouth. I was like ‘Whoa!'” she recalled. “So I just set myself a mission to find out more about it, and made it a goal of my presidency to re-establish and refurbish that garden.”
For the next three years, beginning in May 2010, the garden club and the town’s parks department did just that. The sign was moved about 8 feet to a more visible location and the garden was extended, redesigned and replanted with daylilies, spireas, sedums, blue flag irises, and daffodils.
Route 1 is the only Maine highway designated as a Blue Star Memorial Highway. In 1947, it got its first two signs in Kittery and Calais. Over the years, a total of 27 were installed in Maine.
The Blue Star Memorial Highway program began in 1945 in New Jersey, when a garden club beautified a 5-mile stretch of highway for returning veterans from World War II. The practice was soon adopted by the National Garden Clubs, according to Linda Redman, chairwoman for the Garden Club Federation of Maine, who re-dedicated the marker.
Today, more that 7,000 miles of U.S. highways share the Blue Star designation, which “takes its name and its design from the Blue Star service flag seen in many windows of service families during World War II,” Redman said.
The highway designation was originally meant to honor World War II veterans, but, in 1951, the program was extended to honor all veterans. Falmouth’s marker was first dedicated in 1955, Redman said.
“It’s a grand old sign, I think,” she said. “It was, and it is, a tangible offering from the St. Mary’s Garden Club to honor, to remember and to thank military members in this community for standing in our place, to protect our many freedoms.
“Freedom is not free, so we hope that this Blue Star Memorial Highway marker will cause all of us to reflect on that point whenever we see it.”
Flag bearer Calia Browne and members of Brownie Troop 1431 present colors during a formal re-dedication of a Blue Star Memorial Highway marker on Veterans Day, Monday, Nov. 11, at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 88 in Falmouth. The sign and its surrounding garden had been neglected in recent decades, but was refurbished over the past three years by the St. Mary’s Garden Club. From left: Amelia Hooper, Julia Benzing, Olivia Dickhaut (obscured from view), Carolyn Porada, Browne, Rhyse Sholl and Madison Christman.