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Honoring veterans at the library

Estero Island Garden Club dedicates Blue Star Memorial Marker

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | May 26, 2021

Polky and Tom Ashford helped donate the Blue Star Memorial marker which now stands in front of the Fort Myers Beach Public Library in honor of the nation's veterans. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg

The Estero Island Garden Club got the jump on Memorial Day this past weekend with a tribute to veterans outside the Fort Myers Beach Public Library with the dedication of a Blue Star Memorial marker.

In a ceremony held Saturday morning in front of the library with military songs by a brass band, the posting of colors by the Cypress Lake High School Reserve Officer Training Corps and the singing of “God Bless America” and “Proud to be an American,” the club brought together several dozen people.

The marker was purchased with a donation from garden club member Polky Ashford and her husband Tom, of Fort Myers Beach. Tom Ashford said other members of his family also contributed.

The marker was important to Tom Ashford and his family. He spoke about the military service of his father George H. Ashford, who was killed in World War 2. Tom Ashford was only a toddler when his father died.

Ashford’s father was a co-pilot of a B-17 bomber on his fourth mission over Germany when he was shot down. “Everyone was killed except the pilot,” Ashford said.

Carolyn Lowry-Nation, a parliamentarian with the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, unveils the Blue Star Memorial marker outside the Fort Myers Beach Public Library during a ceremony on Saturday. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg

“In 2006, we made a trip to Europe and I found the town where the plane was shot down,” he said. Ashford said when the bomber crashed in Germany, the townspeople buried those who were on board in the forest. “It was dug up and taken to Belgium where he was buried,” he said. In 1952, he was brought back to Kentucky.

The marker was secured through the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs. Marjorie Hendon, president of the statewide federation, said the marker will be a “constant reminder of the sacrifice made by the valiant men and women being honored here today. She spoke of the honoring of veterans by stating “we must never take them for granted and we must never forget them.”

Mayor Ray Murphy spoke about the history of the blue star going back to World War 2, when families of those serving would post flags with blue stars outside their homes. Murphy’s father John served during World War 2 in the Army.

“It was an honor for me to be here to honor our veterans both alive and deceased and active servicemembers who have sacrificed so we can be free,” Murphy said.

Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy (l-r), Estero Island Garden Club past president Carol Dallas, Estero Island Garden Club President Paula Smith, Florida Federation of Garden Clubs parliamentarian Carolyn Lowry-Nation, Florida Federation of Garden Clubs Blue and Gold Star Memorial Chair Rosia Aristoff, Lee County Commissioner Ray Sandelli and Florida Federation of Garden Clubs President Marjorie Hendon stand outside the Fort Myers Beach Public Library in front of the new Blue Star Memorial marker. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg

Carolyn Lowry-Nation, a parliamentarian with the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, unveils the Blue Star Memorial marker outside the Fort Myers Beach Public Library during a ceremony on Saturday. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg