Cleveland resident Frank Heuckendorf posted on Facebook in early April about the need to edge the memorial markers on Victory Memorial Drive, and make them look good before Memorial Day. Although Heuckendorf and his wife had adopted a few markers on their own – there were over 500 markers on the Drive in need of attention.
Stephanie Gruver saw the post and decided to organize an informal volunteer effort on April 29 via the Facebook Group North House. She encouraged residents to bring their gloves and garden tools to carefully edge the markers and sweep away the grass. No chemicals were used. Gruver supplied yard waste bags, water and treats. About 18 people showed up to be a part of the event.
My great-great uncle, Noble Eric Guile, has a historical marker on Victory Memorial Parkway. I was honored to have the opportunity to clean up his marker during this event. The group made it approximately two blocks in both directions over three hours. Since then, residents have been seen going out on their own to clean the markers, and Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins requested Sentence to Serve to work on them as well. Thanks to all of those who participated!
Written by Rebecca Branch
About Victory Memorial Parkway
Charles Loring, the first president of the park board and known as the “Father of Minneapolis Parks,” had long desired to create a memorial to American soldiers. In the wake of World War I, Loring proposed a monument in which he would plant memorial trees to soldiers along the city’s parkways. Theodore Wirth, park board superintendent at the time, suggested that the planned (not yet constructed) Camden-Glenwood Parkway was the ideal place to plant rows of stately elm trees as a memorial instead. Loring agreed, and the result is today’s Victory Memorial Drive. On June 11, 1921 the new parkway, and its new trees, were dedicated in a grand ceremony.
The name of each soldier from Hennepin County who had died in war is inscribed on a bronze cross or star, installed on the 10th anniversary of the end of World War I. A bronze flag pole and ornamental base, installed in 1923 by the American Legion of Hennepin County, stands as a monument where the northbound parkway turns east at 45th Avenue. The bronze crosses, stars and flag pole replaced the original crosses and flag pole that were made of wood because they could not sustain the hardy Minnesota winters. A statue of Abraham Lincoln, a replica of St. Gaudens’ famous sculpture, was installed in 1930 and stands at the same intersection opposite corner of the flag pole.
Many of the majestic elms beside the parkway succumbed to Dutch Elm disease in the 1970s and after. Now a less uniform, nevertheless beautiful, growth of a variety of trees covers the parkway with shade.