During World War I Mrs. Frank de Garmo founded the "National Society of the 1917 World War Registrars Inc." She organized the Missouri state registrars to collect records of all Missouri boys before they went overseas. Adjt. General Clark was pleased with her efforts, and appointed Mrs. de Garmo as chief registrar of the Adjt. General's office. He also commissioned her to visit camp Funston, Fort Doniphan, Fort Sill and other mobilization camps where Missouri boys were assembling. While visiting these camps she and her staff collected the records of all St. Louis men and women in service.
As the war progressed, a group called the "Gold Star Mothers" was created by Mrs. Frank de Garmo and other St. Louis Mother's of soldiers who died in World War I. In the 1920's the "Gold Star Mothers" organized an effort to honor their sons and daughters who died in service by creating a memorial plaque for each soldier, sailor, and marine. The plaques were cast bronze, containing a gold star and the name, rank, outfit, cause of death, and branch of service of the person being honored. The Court of Honor was erected to display the plaques in the median of Kingshighway Boulevard. The Court of Honor contained 1,185 bronze gold star plaques and a European sycamore tree was planted alongside each plaque.
At that time, the name of Kingshighway was changed to Kingshighway Memorial Drive, from Easton Avenue north to West Florissant. The plaques remained on Kingshighway Memorial Drive from the 1920's to the 1980's when the median was to be modified due to street expansions and the plaques were to be dug up and discarded. The members of Rollo-Calcaterra American Legion Post 15 rallied and collected these memorial plaques in order to save them from destruction. Of the original 1185 plaques, 752 were saved.
Recently the collection was on loan to Jefferson Barracks Park in a WWI display. While the plaques were on display, a representative of the Jefferson Barracks Chapel Association at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery contacted Post 15 to see if they would be interested in donating the plaques for permanent display at the Cemetery. Working closely with the Chapel Association, the Cemetery, and an architect, the Post has decided to donate the plaques for this Memorial. An additional bronze plaque will be created listing the names of the individuals whose plaques are missing and it will be made part of the memorial.
First and foremost, this commemorative work is to preserve a vital piece of history and to continue to honor the men and women who were from St. Louis and died as a result of World War I. The 1185 plaques were created to honor each individual, however, it is the intent of this memorial to display all of the remaining plaques as a commemoration to the entire group of St. Louisians who died for their country in World War I.
These plaques could have been lost and destroyed forever however, they remain because of the efforts and dedication of Rollo-Calcaterra American Legion Post 15. With the support of the Jefferson Barracks Chapel Association and the desire by both groups to locate the Memorial appropriately, these plaques will be at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, to honor these fallen soldiers here in their home town of St. Louis and amongst their fellow fallen soldiers.
The World War I Memorial will be comprised of 752 bronze plaques that remain due to the salvation efforts of the Rollo-Calcaterra American Legion Post 15. These plaques have been preserved and this commemorative donation is intended to permanently install the plaques at the Memorial Walk & Scatter Garden of the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
The design intent is to create two walls of black granite into which the plaques would be installed for viewing from both sides of each wall. The two walls are each anchored with a concrete column, one containing a plaque describing the history of the WWI plaques and the other containing a plaque that lists the missing plaques (names from the missing plaques.) The two walls symbolize the two sections of Kingshighway Memorial Drive that was the original home of the plaques.
The existing Memorial Walk is to remain and concrete pavers would be added around the WW1 Memorial to allow visitors to have access to all of the plaques and not have to walk on soft ground. Originally, each plaque had a tree planted next to it on Kingshighway. Two new rows of trees are symbols of the original trees and are aligned with each of the walls.
Since the final location of these plaques will be at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, this WWI Veterans monument will be honored here in their hometown of St. Louis and amongst their fellow fallen soldiers. Lest We Forget... the bravery and sacrifice of these men & women, we honor them.