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Monday, May 27, 2024

A time and place to reflect: Arboretum dedicates military garden on Veterans Day

A ceremony to honor Durwood Baggett, and all veterans, was held Wednesday at the New Hanover County Arboretum. The arboretum named its new contemplation garden after Durwood, a World War II veteran who died in August. Photos by Hilary Snow
A ceremony to honor Durwood Baggett, and all veterans, was held Wednesday at the New Hanover County Arboretum. The arboretum named its new contemplation garden after Durwood, a World War II veteran who died in August. Photos by Hilary Snow

When visitors to the New Hanover County Arboretum stumble upon the newest addition–a peaceful shaded garden in the corner–David Baggett believes they may wonder about the man for whom it was named.

Although he was many things to many people, to David he was, simply, Dad.

But for those who knew Durwood Baggett, those who will never have the chance and those who may stop to ponder along the arboretum’s path, David wanted to share a little about his father, a man who had the tireless optimism of a good gardener and the selfless spirit of a soldier.

On Veterans Day, hundreds gathered to pay tribute to service men and women, past and present, and in particular to dedicate the arboretum’s Durwood Baggett Memorial Contemplation Garden.

The garden–aimed at providing a meditative place for remembering all who have served, and those who have fallen–has been a year in the making, said Al Hight, the county’s cooperative extension director.

“Although Durwood is no longer with us, I sincerely hope he is satisfied with the results,” Hight said.

Durwood joined the U.S. Army in 1943, serving valiantly in World War II. He saw the front lines of the Battle of the Bulge and survived two bouts of frost bite and a mortar attack. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service.

The new garden is meant to be a place of reflection on all those who have served, and those who lost their lives in service.
The new garden is meant to be a place of reflection on all those who have served, and those who lost their lives in service.

Upon leaving the Army, Durwood became the New Hanover County Agent of the Agricultural Extension Service in 1950, helping lay the foundation for the county’s Master Gardener program before his retirement in 1978. He died in August at the age of 92, only a couple months shy of seeing the garden’s completion.

“He was a true patriot and his life was truly one of service…He loved life and never lost a sense of wonder about God’s creations,” David said of his father. “I hope this garden will serve as a sense of joy and comfort…and that those who visit will be struck by the thought that Durwood Baggett must have been a great man.”

It is that kind of tribute, guest speakers agreed, that was due each member of the military.

“We need, as a community, to move forward and treat our veterans with the respect and services they deserve,” Wilmington mayor pro tem Margaret Haynes noted.

Preceding remarks from Haynes and other dignataries–including Jonathan Barfield, chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Commissions and Ilario Pantano, N.C. Assistant Secretary for Veterans Affairs–the American Legion Post 10 Honor Guard presented colors, with Jeff Winkler playing “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.

A group of Cape Fear Chordsmen singers–all veterans–performed the National Anthem and “Follow the Flag.” The honor guard presented a three-rifle salute and presented a flag to Durwood’s family. The Patriot Honor Guards of N.C. stood at attention in their “Human Wall for Fallen Soldiers.”

Port City Daily staff attended Veterans Day ceremonies throughout Wilmington, including one at Cape Fear Community College and Wilmington National Cemetery. Photos of all ceremonies can be seen in the slideshow below.

 

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.

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