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A wooden sign and a granite marker are parts of a native American memorial at Riverwalk Marina. Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Grady Tyler helped Renee Ponchin Barnes beautify the memorial on Tuesday.
DAILY Photo by John Godbey
A wooden sign and a granite marker are parts of a native American memorial at Riverwalk Marina. Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Grady Tyler helped Renee Ponchin Barnes beautify the memorial on Tuesday.

Woman spruces up
Cherokee memorial

By Martin Burkey
DAILY Staff Writer

mburkey@decaturdaily.com 340-2441

It was already getting seriously hot by 9 a.m. Tuesday when Renee Ponchin Barnes arrived at Riverwalk Marina on her mission.

Carrying bags of red and purple and pink silk flowers, ribbon, wire and tape, she began her task with the help of Parks and Recreation Department Assistant Director Grady Tyler.

On a chance visit to the marina recently with her son, she discovered an official historical marker remembering Cherokee Indians buried there.

She was touched by the poetry on the granite marker, the wooden sign beside the river and the natty teddy bear, doll and tattered ribbons left by someone and now worn with age.

Her husband, Lewis, who died in 1991, was one-quarter Cherokee, and she felt the nearly overgrown monument needed a little loving care.

"That marker should not be left like that, like some dogs buried it," said Barnes, a Paris native who met her husband during World War II when he was in the Army's 1st Armored Division.

"That is a shame for Decatur," she said.

She got permission from the Decatur Parks and Recreation Department and a Huntsville representative of the Cherokee Nation to spruce it up. Tyler moved the branches and brush. She cut away the old ribbons and began wrapping the new ribbons, placing flowers and setting up a wreath of pink flowers.

Even the government sign warning that the site was protected got a treatment of white ribbon and lavender flowers.

"I just wanted to do something for those people, who were so badly treated by the whites," she said.

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