Teen resurrects forgotten war memorial in Skagit County

Teen describes power of Memorial Highway

Highway 536 runs from Mount Vernon to Anacortes in Skagit County. It's an unremarkable stretch of road dotted with small businesses, farms, and the occasional elm tree.

If you pay close attention you'll see 536 is also called Memorial Highway, but few remember exactly what that memorial is all about.
  
Except for Emma Sundance.

"It's so frustrating. I don't understand how it doesn't come to people's heads when they hear 'Memorial Highway,'" said Sundance.

Sundance knows. And she wants all of us to remember.

"These were people's children," she said. "They would come here and see these trees and they would remember their children."

About 100 years ago Memorial Highway was lined with 180 elm trees to commemorate those from Skagit County who served and died in World War I.
  
In 1953, however, with the county growing, officials needed to widen the road and to do so they cut down those trees.

Only three of them remain standing today.


  
One of those cut was dedicated to Robert Welch's great uncle Clark Ash.

"It's unfortunate because it's part of history and it was wiped out," said Welch. "It was disrespectful."

When Sundance and her dad, himself a veteran, found out about the situation, they were heartsick.

"I heard a quote a few years ago that goes, 'They say every man dies two deaths. One when he breathes his last and one when his name is uttered for the last time.' I believe the greatest casualty is being forgotten," said Sundance.

Sundancestarted raising money and awareness -- and she started replanting those trees. Four of them were planted over the weekend.

One of them was dedicated to Ash. He was just 22 years old when he died in 1918. His body is buried in France. The freshly planted tree along Memorial Highway now helps connect Welch to his family's roots.

"It's important to all of us, because it's our history," he said.

Sundance is trying to raise money to buy more trees. She would like to replant all 180 that originally stood. She's also looking for property owners along Memorial Highway who are willing to have trees planted on their land.

For more information on how to get involved you can email Sundance at veteranelmproject@gmail.com.

© 2017 KING-TV


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