At Brunswick Landing, the former U.S. Naval Air Station in Brunswick, Maine, closed in 2011, is a beautiful Chapel. Between its wings are two courtyards, quietly sheltered from the busy facility which surrounds it. This is where our Memorial Gardens are located.
History of our Gardens
The following history was prepared by the Harpswell Garden Club.
In 1968 the southerly courtyard challenged the imagination of Miss Anne Frances Hodgkins – she, who had grown up on the tall ships of which her father was Captain, understood the beauty of flowers and shrubs and envisioned this courtyard as a memorial to Navy personnel whose death had left a void.
In March of 1968 she had a conference with NASB Commanding Officer, Captain Charles L. Wyman, USN; Commander G.H. Gilliam, USN; Commander William M. Hunter, CHC, USN; Mrs. Jeanne Gilliam; Mr. Lyle Littlefield, University of Maine; and Mr. Conrad Griffin, U.S. Department of Agriculture. With the expertise of the latter two, the garden was designed and as soon as spring had come, work was started. On June 16, 1968 the Memorial Garden was dedicated.
Four years later, the Friendship Garden in the north courtyard was one of Miss Anne Frances Hodgkins’ last major contributions. Its purpose is to commemorate civilians who served the Navy and others who respected its mission. Gifts from the Brunswick and Harpswell communities made its completion possible and it was dedicated May 28, 1972.
The Memorial Garden was established to perpetuate forever the memories of those who in the service of their country made the supreme sacrifice of life itself. It was they who believed it is an honor to serve mankind by dedicating their lives to perpetuate the American dream.
The Friendship Garden is a spot in a busy world to make permanent the retention of memories of military personnel and civilians who have had the privilege of experiencing the unlimited joy of being friends.
Each year, reminders for those whom we have admired are placed in the gardens. Four additions were made in 1974. A bench was placed in the Memorial Garden by VP-44 for Crew 6 of this squadron whose P-3 went down off the African coast on June 3, 1972. VP-10 gave a flowering crab apple tree and a memorial stone for those who perished when, on March 15, 1973, their plane failed by forty miles to sweep its home runway. A weeping white birch tree was added in memory of Mr. Frank G. Hampton who served on the base as a Lockheed representative and was known and loved by all who flew the P-2’s and P-3’s. A plaque in memory of Miss Hodgkins was affixed to a rock and placed there. The plaque reads “Through the vision of Anne Frances Hodgkins the Dream of this garden became a reality – Let it be a Memorial to her wherever her name is spoken.”
These tributes join those already in place: the bronze plaque with its message, “Memorial to the gallant officers and men of Navy Brunswick who gave their lives for freedom while flying in Navy aircraft – VP-10 – may our grief turn to pride”; the marker to Christopher Gilliam, son of Commander and Mrs. G.H. Gilliam; the plaque for those who flew off the Gulf of Siam as Crew 1 in VP-26 and were lost April 1, 1968. VP-26 was struck twice by tragedy in 1968 when a second crew was lost in combat while flying off the coast of Vietnam near the Cambodian border. An additional plaque was placed in the garden in their honor.
On December 11, 1977 bad weather and mountainous terrain claimed the lives of a VP-11 flight crew in the Canary Islands. A routine patrol for VP-23’s Crew 6 ended tragically when they crashed in the Atlantic near Lajes in the Azores. On September 22, 1978, while on a routine training flight from NASB, eight crew members from VP-8 lost their lives when their plane crashed near Poland Springs, Maine. Bronze plaques listing the names of these three crews were added to the garden.
In 1980 a unique copper and brass cascading fountain, “A Splash of Water”, was placed in the Friendship Garden, significantly adding to the beauty and solemnity of this quiet place of remembering.
A special “Vietnam Era Marine Memorial” was added to the Memorial Garden in 1982 to honor U.S. Marines from the state of Maine who were killed in Vietnam. A wooden bench with a plaque was added in 1985 in memory of Paul E. Burbank whose tireless efforts and dedication to the Navy contributed so much to making these gardens a unique monument to the very special Military-Civilian community relations that have existed since NASB’s establishment.
In 1985 a bronze plaque was added to the Friendship Garden reading, “Dedicated with thanks to God, in loving memory for these lives we shared.” When dedicated on May 19, 1985, the plaque contained 18 names. It is most appropriate that the first name on this plaque is Anne Frances Hodgkins. It was that remarkable lady’s special appreciation for the natural beauty the surrounds us, her unique sense of civic responsibility, and her inspired leadership that made these gardens a reality and left an indelible mark on each of us privileged to know her. Names have been added and will continue to be added as the life of this very special Military-Civilian community continues to evolve.
In 1994 a plaque titled, “We too have served,” was installed in the Friendship Garden, dedicated to the spouses of our military personnel. In 1999 the VPB-111/VP-21 Veterans Association installed a plaque in the Memorial Garden dedicated to all those squadron members who gave their lives in service to our country. In 2004 former members of VP-23 installed two plaques dedicated to ten shipmates who made the supreme sacrifice off Nassau, Bahamas on May 7, 1954; and nine shipmates who died in Aviano, Italy on July 12, 1957. In 2005 a plaque was dedicated to fourteen members of VP-8 who lost their lives off the Patuxent River, Maryland on January 30, 1963.
Over the years many tributes have been added to the gardens in the form of flowers, shrubs and trees. All have been contributed in memory of individuals whose lives in varying ways have special significance to NASB and the squadrons and staffs based here. Each of these contributions is recorded in the Memorial and Friendship Gardens’ album and history book.