IN MEMORY: New orchard at Larenim remembers those who died defending their country

Liz Beavers
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Kevin Simon, director of Mineral County Parks and Recreation, stands beside the marble bench donated to Larenim Park by the Gold Star Mothers. The bench overlooks the orchard where the county just planted 55 apple trees - one for each county in West Virginia.

BURLINGTON - Fifty-five young apple trees of different varieties have recently been planted in a cleared-off area at Larenim Park.

These are not just any apple trees, however. Each one of them represents one of West Virginia’s 55 counties.

But even that isn’t what really makes them special.

Soon, the trees will be dedicated, and perhaps some of them adorned with the dog tags of a man or woman who paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for their country.

According to Mineral County Parks and Recreation director Kevin Simon, the American Gold Star Mothers, an organization composed of mothers of fallen members of the military, have been working with Mineral County to establish the living memorial at the Mineral County park.

The newly-planted apple orchard at Larenim Park features an apple tree for each of the 55 counties in West Virginia.

“Two years we’ve been trying to do this,” he told the News Tribune recently, noting that COVID got in the way, delaying some of the work and especially delaying a planned dedication ceremony.

Simon says apple trees were chosen for the planting for a reason.

“We wanted to tie it in with the Apple Harvest Festival,” he said, referring to Burlington’s annual event which brings visitors to the area from all over the country.

“We’ve got 55 apple trees; one for every county in West Virginia,” he said.

Mineral County's apple is the Golden Delicious. Parks and Recreation director Kevin Simon is hoping that when families who have lost sons or daughters in the service come to visit the orchard, they will hang dog tags or another small memento on the hook at their county tree.

Each tree is labeled for the county it represents and the type of apple it will produce.

Near the area where the trees are located, a freshly-poured concrete pad awaits the setting of a marble bench provided by the Gold Star Mothers.

The bench states: “Gold Star Families are those that have lost a family member in sacrifice to our country. These trees are living monuments to our brave men and women of the U.S. Military who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Simon says the Gold Star Mothers took care of the cost of everything, with the help of several sponsors listed on the bench.

“There’s supposed to be five Freedom Oak trees too - one for each branch of the service - we just haven’t gotten them in yet,” he said.

“It will be really nice out here in a few years when the trees are taller and come in bloom,” he added.

A dedication of the area is scheduled for Sunday, June 13, at 2 p.m. and Mineral County Tourism director Ashley Centofonti has been sending out invitations.

She says the area is a fitting memorial to those who lost their lives in service to their country and will be a nice addition to Larenim Park.

“The West Virginia Gold Star Mothers honor sons and daughters who have lost their lives defending our country throughout the different branches of the military,” she said.

“This organization not only honors these fallen heroes, but also performs outreach to help support veterans throughout the state of West Virginia. Bringing this program into Mineral County allows us to honor the fallen heroes of our own county, as well as to remember the sacrifices they made protecting our freedoms.

“The Living Memorial allows these families to visit Larenim Park and honor the memory of their loved ones who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” she said.