Students worked under the supervision of Ivy Nelson, Monett High School English teacher, to help set up a small granite marker surrounded by red, white and blue pansies proclaiming the site as the Christopher Stark Memorial Garden. The memorial will serve as a tribute to all of Monett's military personnel who have given their lives in service to their country.
"A lot of students knew Chris, or had siblings that knew him, so this is really current," Nelson said. "This is a way to honor Chris, and this is particularly meaningful for some of these students."
Nelson received generous donations from the Monument Shoppe in Springfield, who engraved and delivered the site marker to the school at no charge and from Lowe's, who donated the annuals for the garden. Walmart provided funding for edger stones from Meek's Lumber supplied the weed barrier and mulch.
Park maintenance crews from the City of Monett assisted in clearing the site for the memorial, but the bulk of the work came from Nelson and the students.
"This feels good," Nelson said. "These students are committed to commemorating someone who sacrificed his life for their freedoms. We tend to take those freedoms for granted."
Students raked the rocky soil to level the site before laying in the weed block and securing it with the paving stones. They planted the flowers in rings of red, white and blue, and then placed mulch around the fragile plants to provide warmth and protection while they take root.
"The kids working here today are all juniors," Nelson said. "This is their last community service project. By this time next year, they will have graduated.
"The donations were also very generous," Nelson added. "Lowe's, for instance, has already sent truckloads of supplies and employees to help our neighbors in Joplin who were hit by last Sunday's tornado. We really appreciate every business owner who contributed to making this project a success."
Students finished the project just a few minutes before the arrival of Stark's mother, Teresa, and his brother, Trenton. Stark's grandfather, Max Brown, and a family friend, Floyd Baker, who joined the family.
"I appreciate you guys doing this project," Teresa said, thanking each student and Nelson in turn. "It's very hum