By Don Lowe
A clear vision to help celebrate all those who’ve given everything they have for this country has come alive at Barton County Memorial Park in Lamar, Missouri, and a lot more is in progress and still being planned to honor everyone deserving of the utmost respect and recognition.
Joe Davis, president/treasurer of the Barton County Memorial Park Board, talked about how this undertaking came together three years ago. “In April 2019, a neighbor and me approached the Barton County commissioners (owners of the old hospital and property) about turning that land into some sort of memorial park after the hospital was razed.
“We wanted to keep the three acres as a memorial to the 69 Barton County men that died in World War II. After several meetings and a neighborhood canvas, we were granted permission.”
Davis further explained, “A seven-person board was formed in December 2019. We applied for and received our articles of incorporation as well as our 501c3 status. We are also Missouri sales tax exempt.
“Over the past two years, we’ve held fundraisers, received grants and sold bricks and pavers. We depend on these to fund the memorial park. No tax money, federal, state or local, is used. So far, we’ve raised more than $300,000.”
As for key features, Davis indicated, “We have several areas dedicated to honoring people. The southwest corner is where we pay tribute to those 69 men that gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“Those men are the reason the hospital was built in 1948-49. We wanted to keep their memories alive. We owe it to them not to forget what they sacrificed. Each of them has a memorial stone engraved with their name, rank, branch and day they died.”
Davis stated that other notable aspects in this section include, “The original 50-foot flagpole and pedestal is also in this corner. All the sidewalks have been replaced and a diagonal sidewalk joining the two has been added.
“On this sidewalk, two eight-foot benches have been placed as well as a replica of the original plaque that hung inside the lobby of the old hospital. It’s solid bronze and weighs 249 pounds. I tell people the southwest corner is not the biggest section of the park, but it’s the most important.”
The WWII section is significant, but Davis said, “Two other areas are currently under construction and will be nearly complete later this year. The 44-foot war memorial and 26 x 60-foot walk of honor pays tribute to any veteran.
“Six black granite triangles six-feet high will be placed in the war memorial, one for each of the major wars the United States fought. Six 20-foot flagpoles will encompass the war memorial. All monuments and flagpoles will have inground lighting.”
That’s not all. Davis said, “The cornerstone plaza area is dedicated exclusively to anybody that had anything to do with the old hospital. Two brick walls, made from bricks engraved with the names of hospital employees, will flank the original 1948 cornerstone to the north and east. The floor will have 12 x 12-inch granite pavers engraved with the names of anybody born at the hospital.
“Our latest addition is a WWII-era Sherman tank, from the Museum of Missouri Military History in Jefferson City. It’s sitting on the helipad in the northeast corner of the memorial park.”
When pondering why this is such a big deal, Davis maintained, “The Barton County Memorial Park is another way for us to pay tribute to those men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day.”
Davis is thrilled to be a part of it all. “I am honored to be involved with this from day one. It has consumed my life, but not in a bad, unwanted way.”
Barton County Memorial Park Fast Facts
Visitors Welcome: The entire memorial park is open to anyone who wants to walk through it.
Cost and Hours: There’s no charge and it is open 24/7. (Not recommended visiting at night until the war memorial and walk of honor are finished. These will both be lit and visible at night once they are completed.)
Grand Opening: A tentative ribbon cutting is scheduled for either September 17 or September 24 with a Black Hawk helicopter landing in the northeast corner of the memorial park. (It’s anticipated the war memorial will be completed by this time and at least some of the engraved veterans’ pavers installed in the walk of honor as well. The cornerstone plaza will still be in progress.
Board Members: Joe Davis – President/Treasurer; Jeff Clements – Vice President; Sue Bennett – Secretary; Gordon Godfrey; Steve Capehart; Larry Fast; and Tom Combs.
Grants: So far, four grants totaling $104,000 have been received, including the Community Betterment Grant, Arvest Foundation and two from the Barton County Community Foundation.
Fundraisers: Selling bricks from the old hospital, as well as several car shows and selling Wagyu burgers and brats.
More to Come: According to Davis, “We have enough project ideas to keep us busy for at least 10 years. The future includes a Danforth Anchor, currently on loan from the U.S. Navy and located in the courtyard, and a first responder area. Also, a gazebo will be constructed near the center of the park with sidewalks leading to and from it.”