In 1985, only a few years after the school’s opening, Pine Mountain Middle School created a memorial garden as a tribute to the students and staff members who had passed away. After nearly two decades of use, Pine Mountain’s Memorial Garden was rededicated during the 2004-2005 school year to honor Jack Hensley, a beloved substitute and parent. Mr. Hensley was one of three hostages kidnapped and killed while working in Iraq in the fall of 2004, garnering national and worldwide attention.
Almost two decades have passed since that second dedication, and the garden is creeping closer to its 40th anniversary. Thousands of students have walked through the Memorial Garden, most not knowing the history shaded by the shrubs and weeds that had started to overtake the space. Principal David Nelson aimed to change that and, with the community's help, is digging up the history locked in the garden and giving the space new life.
On a recent steamy school day, members of the Rotary Club of North Cobb and the Kennesaw Mountain High School Girls Volleyball Team slipped on gloves, grabbed shovels and rakes to start refreshing the garden's beauty, which has honored so many from the Pine Mountain family.
“Our aim is to give middle schoolers a wonderful place to get some fresh air, blow off a little steam, and get some time in the sun. The sixth grade enters and exits through this garden. So, they see it every day. It's important that it look nice,” said Nancy Prochaska, president of the Rotary Club of North Cobb.
They trimmed back all the bushes, pulled weeds, and cut out other shrubberies that were not growing well. They also pressured washed wooden structures in the garden, including the pergola, arch, and table.
“From the few hours we've been here, we got a lot of the weeds out, and we cleaned up most of the benches. It looks a lot more presentable for people to come out here and really enjoy their time. I know that the kids will be able to enjoy the garden,” explained Phoebe, a current Kennesaw Mountain ninth grader, and former Pine Mountain student.
The Rotary Club of North Cobb plans to return to the garden with fresh paint and new plants to transform the garden into a place students want to be, a place that makes them smile as they walk the garden path to carpool every afternoon.
Principal Nelson’s goal is for the garden to serve as a space where Pine Mountain students can come and relax and recharge. It once provided a location for teachers to continue their classroom lessons outside. With the community's help, Pine Mountain’s Memorial Garden will once again include a space for an outdoor classroom or two.
“Rejuvenating this garden is another step to make our community proud of what we provide at Pine Mountain. Our school has long been a tradition of pride in our community. However, over time, things start falling apart somewhat. So, it's important to me to make sure that our community gets plugged back into this area, to our community, and to our school period,” Principal Nelson added.
In addition to those who participated in the garden workday, many local businesses have already stepped up to help with Pine Mountain’s garden refresh, including Jenny Jones of Edward Jones, Building Revolutions, Acworth Home Depot, and Chick-fil-A.
“I think the work that's being done at our school is another example of how we all unite behind our vision of being One team, One goal for student success. I couldn't be prouder to be the principal at Pine Mountain Middle School and proud to be a part of the Kennesaw Mountain community,” noted Principal Nelson.
The revitalization of Pine Mountain’s Memorial Garden is not complete. The school needs help unearthing some of the lost history. For those interested in helping to refresh the garden space, have questions about the garden’s history, or want to provide information that would add to the history of Pine Mountain’s Memorial Garden, please contact Principal Nelson at the school.