By B.C. Manion
Suzanne Denny was walking through Lutz Memorial Park on the Fourth of July and noticed that the memorial in the park was choked with weeds.
“It was so overgrown by poison oak you couldn’t even see what it was,” said Denny, who was in the park that day with her life partner, Randy Coviello.
Denny declared the situation “a disgrace.”
Coviello told her she should do something about it.
So she did.
But she didn’t do it alone. She joined the GFWC Lutz-Pasco Junior Woman’s Club and suggested the group take on a makeover of the memorial as a group project.
The memorial honors not only those who have been in the military, but also firefighters, police officers, emergency responders and others who serve or have served their community or nation.
On Sunday, in honor of this week’s celebration of Veterans Day, there will be a special ceremony to rededicate the lovingly restored memorial.
As many of these things go, the project was a lot more involved than it seemed it would be at first.
“We kicked it off on 9/11,” Denny said. “We must have pulled 15 black contractor bags full of weeds and trash out of the memorial.”
Initially, the volunteers thought they would simply pull out the weeds and fill in the gaps with fresh plants, said Sharon Grace, a member of the GFWC Lutz-Pasco Junior Woman’s Club.
But they consulted two landscapers who told them the garden needed a complete overhaul, Grace said.
The organizers had not envisioned spending much money on the project, but they got help from Denny’s company, Commonwealth Insurance; Coviello’s company, American Outlaw Jeep Parts; Capstone Credit & Collection Agency; SITA, Inc. and W.S.P. Consultants, Inc.
They also got other kinds of contributions.
PlayNation of Tampa donated the mulch and Image Painting of Florida provided the paint and did the pressure washing. And, on the kick-off day, Nancy’s Good N Fast restaurant supplied sandwiches to feed the hungry crew.
Duncheon’s Nursery & Landscaping and ValleyCrest Landscape Companies provided plant consultations and got the organizers very good prices for the replacement plants, Denny said.
Three men from Duncheon’s also helped rip out many of the old plants to make way for new ones, Denny said.
She and Coviello had been out in the rain pulling out the old plants so the new ones could be planted.
Some men from Duncheon’s drove by and took pity on them, Denny said.
The men used special shovels and had the plants out in 20 minutes, a job that Denny said would have taken her and Coviello hours to complete.
She’s still grateful.
“My back was killing me,” she said.
The updated memorial garden now boasts Knockout Roses, dwarf firebush, Indian Hawthorne and dwarf Walter’s viburnum.
In addition to the money and materials donated for the project, many people gave their time and sweat equity.
Besides the woman’s club, their families and friends, there were other volunteers.
Some members of the Exchangettes, a service club from Steinbrenner High pitched in, and so did some scout troops.
Hillsborough County firefighter Artie Taylor helped out several times and he and he drafted another firefighter, Michael Hudkins, to help out, too.
Others who pitched in were Sheila Tramontana, a former candidate for Lutz Guv’na and Lizz Owen, of Standard Pacific Homes, who told Denny about Image Painting of Florida and ValleyCrest Landscape Companies.
Craig Jewesak, the aide in Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist’s office and Rina Rojas, a manager at the Hillsborough parks department were also responsive, Denny said. The sprinklers in the garden needed to be repaired and they were, she said.
Denny also touched base with Phyllis and William Hoedt, who were on the committee that originally installed the memorial and with the Orange Blossom Garden Club, the group that originally maintained it to get their blessing for the project.
Denny is thrilled by the project’s outcome.
“People came out and gave their time and effort,” she said. “I love how the community has come together.”
/Rededication of Lutz Service Memorial
What: Rededication of the Lutz Veteran’s Service Memorial hosted by the GFWC Lutz-Pasco Junior Woman’s Club.
When: 11 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 13.
Where: 98 First Ave. S.W., Lutz (at the corner of Lutz-Lake Fern Road and US 41)
Who: Everyone is welcome to attend
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