By Sara Teller
Photo By Bernie LaFramboise
The Ferndale Memorial Association was orginally founded in 1919 out of the Ferndale Memorial Society, by members of the American Legion and VFW organizations. It continues to be a community-driven group, and residents of Ferndale are encouraged to participate in the organization’s ongoing meetings, events and other initiatives. The Ferndale Memorial Association coordinates the yearly Memorial Day parade and observance, and the Veterans Day observance. “We have the oldest, continuous Memorial Day parade in the state of Michigan,” says Barbara Earl, active Ferndale Memorial Association Director.
Barbara herself has been with the FMA for 43 years, following in her father’s footsteps who was a World War II veteran and former member of the FMA. Five years ago, the Ferndale Memorial Association began working with the City of Ferndale to plan a much-needed renovation of the city’s Memorial Mall located at the 9 Mile Rd and Livernois corridor. “The preliminary work – planning, design, and securing proper permits – took up the majority of the time, but we are hoping to have the renovation finalized within the next year,” Barbara says.
The Memorial Mall was originally constructed in 1956 as a commemorative centerpiece for World War veterans, both I and II, affiliated with the Ferndale community, whether in residency, or by school, work, or other means. Additions were made a few years later to include a brick monument upon which the names of deceased veterans who were associated with the city are still proudly displayed.
The City’s Memorial Day and Veteran Day services are centered around this Memorial Mall, a well-known pillar to local residents, including the city’s annual Memorial Day parade. “As part of the Memorial Day services, we have a tradition of reading all of the names of the veterans who passed in the previous year. We put their names at the niche of the monuments for an entire year, with new names added year after year,” Barbara explains.
The various events are kept tasteful out of respect for the veterans and their families, without the hustle and bustle of carnival or vending activities. The city will celebrate its 100th-year event in 2018.
The Mall renovation will make the Memorial area more accessible to all of Ferndale’s residents, regardless of mobility or age. “The main objective was to make the mall more handicapped accessible,” Barbara says.
“We’ve added the needed structure to hook up new handicapped ramps and walk ways, which will be designed to help senior citizens with limited mobility get around as well.” The improvements will ensure the Memorial Mall’s landscape meets all Americans with Disability Act (ADA) standards.
There are two planned phases to the renovation, with the first phase currently underway. It includes demolition, site prep and improvement to the existing structures, making them ADA compliant. In Phase 1, existing vegetation is being removed, and hand rails and ADA approved ramps are being installed. The existing brick wall is undergoing repairs, a new limestone cap is getting installed at the top of the wall and the limestone steps are being replaced. “The main expense will be in installing sidewalks and walkways in the Mall that will connect to the existing curb cuts already installed by the city. That is our current fundraising push, so we can begin that work next summer,” says Ferndale Memorial Association member Karen Roos.
Phase II will focus on landscaping, fencing, engraved brick placement, and renovation of the existing brick area. “We’ll replant flowers, and place new trees and bushes,” Barbara explains. “The goal is to maintain the area, making minor improvements to clean up the space, but leaving it as the Founding Fathers intended.” The City of Ferndale and the Ferndale Memorial Association hope that making the needed improvements will help to preserve the Memorial Mall for future generations.
The Memorial Mall restoration project is projected to total between $40,000 and $60,000. Fundraising events, including a large civic and community outreach campaign, have been scheduled. The plans were shared with the public during this summer’s Memorial Day celebration, and the group is currently focusing on completing the ADA structure. Donations are also being graciously accepted. The FMA will work with the City of Ferndale to determine how residents can best get involved as the project moves forward.
Those interested in volunteering their services or in making donations can contact Joann Willcock through the Ferndale Memorial Association at FerndaleMemorial@gmail.com.