Photo by Joe Boyle
Judy Barker (left) and Lorraine Bujan, president of the Oak Lawn Garden Club, take part in the ceremony recognizing the club’s efforts in having the Blue Star Memorial Highway Memorial maker moved to its present location at 95th Street and Cook Avenue in Oak Lawn.
Julie Barker’s love of gardening made her a natural to join the Oak Lawn Garden Club.
But after becoming a member, it was her passion for another project that made her committed to accomplishing a goal that was close to her heart.
Barker, Lorraine Bujan, current president of the Oak Lawn Garden Club, and other members were on hand for a Memorial Day ceremony for the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker at 95th Street and Cook Avenue. The plaque honors the memory of all veterans and especially those who died in the line of duty.
The marker is of the greatest importance to Barker, who has been an official member of the Oak Lawn Garden Club for 10 years. She recalled a woman from Evergreen Park who said the condition of another Blue Star Memorial Highway maker has worsened. Barker told her that the Oak Lawn location had been nearly forgotten.
“That’s when I got involved,” said Barker.
The Oak Lawn Garden Club was created in 1956. The club’s origin dates back to World War II when the National Garden Club came up with the idea of erecting a marker in memory of the nation’s war veterans. In May of 1963, the club dedicated the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker at 95th Street, north of the railroad tracks in the village, near the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post 5220.
Barker said that the club wanted a more prominent spot for the marker. The club, through the help of Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Village Clerk Jane Quinlan, assisted in the marker moving to 95th and Raymond in front of the parking lot adjacent to the old Oak Lawn Senior Center and Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce office.
“We had to restore it, and they got it moving,” said Barker.
When the Oak Lawn Bank and Trust purchased the land, officials suggested moving the plaque inside the building. Barker was vehemently against the idea.
“I did not want it on private property,” said Barker. “It had to be on an interstate highway like it is now.”
Barker said she became more of a historian regarding the Blue Star Highway Memorial. However, keeping up with the club’s history and the marker proved to be a daunting task.
“It was growing and I had no room to put everything,” said Barker. “June Cutis, who was our president then, helped out. We worked to gather the information and she got it on a computer. We were anxious to get it done.”
The first dedication was in 2009 at the 95th Street and Raymond site. Along with the Oak Lawn Garden Club, local dignitaries were on hand for the ceremony, along with Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd).
After the bank purchased the property, the Oak Lawn Garden Cub, with the assistance of the village, made the move to 95th and Cook, which has been the site of the Nativity scene during the holiday season.
“I’m really happy where the marker is now,” said Bujan, an Oak Lawn resident since 1974 who has been an Oak Lawn Garden Club member for six years. “We have people who stop to look at the spot now. They did not do that at the old location.
Pat Bugos, another Oak Lawn Garden Club member, also likes the new location for the marker.
“I think a lot of people from Oak Lawn have been in the military,” said Bugos. “We have members in their 70s, 80s and 90s. I think it’s important to pass this on so people remember. I think it is important.”
As for Barker, 84, she will continue to work to have a ceremony for the Blue Star Memorial Highway to coincide annually with the Memorial Day observation.
“These men and women put their lives on hold for us,” said Barker, whose late husband served in Korea. She also has two children. “Many of them did not come back. Many of these veterans return with mental problems. It’s the least we can do for them.”