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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI Master Gardener creates masterful garden for fallen soldiers

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 18, 2005 -- If you visit the Rhode Island Statehouse donít forget to stop by the Garden of Heroes, located on the southwest lawn.

The memorial garden, which will be dedicated Oct. 23, was the vision of Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty as a way to honor Rhode Island servicemen and women who died serving their country during operations in support of the global war on terrorism since September 11, 2001.

The lieutenant governor contacted Marion Gold and Roseanne Sherry of the University of Rhode Islandís Master Gardener Program for assistance. Realizing that the gardenís creation was a formidable task, Gold asked Master Gardener Mel Bilezerian of North Smithfield to be project coordinator.

ďAt first I felt I didnít have enough background to put a project of this magnitude together,Ē Bilezerian recalled.

However, after reflecting on his own military service in the Air National Guard during the late 1960s and early 1970s and wishing to raise awareness of URIís Master Gardener Program, he agreed.

ďMel was the glue who held the project together,Ē says Gold. ďHe knocked on doors and helped make it happen.Ē

By the time the garden was dedicated, Bilezerian had volunteered about 600 hours on the project.
He suggested placing a 10-foot star made of polished stainless steel in the raised bed to depict the five branches of the military, which was not in the original rendering. Five service stones are placed between the points of the star, surrounded by red, white, and blue annual flowers. Two teak benches face the center garden.

The edging for the raised garden and the entire garden is adorned with five granite stones, engraved to reflect the five branches of the military. There are eight Circis canandensis, two Skyrocket Juniper, 65 Taxus Capitata around the garden, and 37 red and yellow roses.

A memorial tablet bears the names of 14 Rhode Islanders who have died since 2001.

Since URIís Master Gardener Program began in 1977, more than 1,700 people have been trained. Last year, Master Gardeners volunteered more than 29,000 hours on a variety of campus and statewide projects. To learn more about the program, call 401-874-2900 or go to