Along a quiet stretch of bayou, just off old Bayou Black Drive, stand rows of live oak trees. The trees stand at attention, covered in evergreen foliage, a solemn reminder of the sacrifice of the sons of Terrebonne Parish in World War II.
We often hear the phrase Gold Star Mothers, these days mostly in period movies, but does the current generation understand the term? During World War I, families would place stars in their windows to let the outside world know their beloved family member, perhaps a husband or son, was away fighting in the war. Blue stars were hung for each member in the armed forces. If the tragic news came that their loved one was killed in action, a gold star was superimposed over the blue to denote the loss to all who visited. The gold star symbolized the “honor and glory accorded to the person for his supreme sacrifice to his country.”
It was during the time period shortly after World War II in the 1940s that a group of Gold Star Mothers, along with the Terrebonne Garden Club, planted oak trees at Memorial Park along Bayou Black in Houma for the sons they lost in the war.
Twenty-one live oak trees still proudly stand in the park now known as Jim Bowie Park.
Shining a Light on the Story
Linda Brashier of the Terrebonne Garden Club set out around eight years to ago to confirm a rumor she had heard that the perfectly planted rows of oaks in Jim Bowie Park had been planted in honor of men who died in World War II.
It was through making contact with Jessie Ledet that Linda realized the rumors were in fact true. Mr. Jessie had in his possession a yellowing newspaper clipping of two groups of Gold Star Mothers planting young trees. Mr. Jessie’s mother is pictured in the clipping, planting a tree for his brother Druis who was killed in WWII.
Registering the Trees
The Terrebonne Garden Club has set the wheel in motion to register the trees with the Live Oak Society. The Live Oak Society is a membership organization for mature Live Oak trees founded in 1934 to “advance the culture, distribution, preservation, and appreciation of the southern live oak and functions under the auspices of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation, Inc.” As of April 2019, there are 8,786 registered live oaks in Louisiana. For an oak to become a member, the girth must measure eight feet or greater.
Members of the Terrebonne Garden Club gathered recently to measure and number the trees in Jim Bowie Park. All 21 oaks at Jim Bowie Park meet the requirements. The Garden Club member Mary Jane Peters is actively filing the paperwork for the registration.
Honoring the Past
It is believed that 82 men from Terrebonne Parish were killed in World War II. The single source of information on these individuals is a plaque on a flagpole at Terrebonne High School. Linda and her husband Ken have researched the names diligently over the years to confirm they were all in fact residents of the parish. There are only seven names they are currently unsure of.
The Terrebonne Garden Club is looking into options for plaques to be placed on or near the trees. A ceremony will be held to rededicate the trees, hopefully in conjunction with the club’s Tour of Gardens event. The Garden Club will be asking descendants of the men killed in action to join in the ceremony as they return the trees to the public as a grand memorial.
The list of individuals who gave their lives in service to our country is viewable as a PDF above. The Terrebonne Garden Club welcomes descendants to contact them directly for more information and to share your family stories.
Please email Linda Brashier at firstname.lastname@example.org.