Old tree roots had hoved the dirt on both sides of the walk. He didn't think he wanted the job.
“This is one large and mighty oak, when did your son plant it?” I asked.
She smiled. “Oh it was forty-three years ago when he was six,” she replied. I could tell she was proud of her son, very proud. The home here on Sixth Avenue had been built right after the war and things around it were showing their age. She looked about. “People say I dote on my Billy but when he was killed in action they flew me back to Washington for his funeral in Arlington. The Vice President himself did come to the funeral,” she said.
I looked at her dress and thought, Oh yeah, and I dated Princess Marguerite. “And may I ask what rank he was to get the Veep?” My head was trying to figure how and how much this job would be.
She perked up. “My Billy was a three star general, a Lieutenant General,” she said, and I saw a tear form in the corner of her eye then begin its journey down her wrinkled cheek. “He lead the assault to save some men who were trapped and he paid the supreme sacrifice.”
I studied this old lady, her dress quite worn, her sneakers clean but worn and the well manicured yard with a small plaque bronze plaque hanging on the tree. In honor of Lt General William Z.Warren.
“Maam, normally I would not take a job like this for taking this tree out is the only real answer; however it may be expensive but I think I have a solution to save and preserve Billy’s Shrine, and to alleviate this side walk hazard.” My mind ran wild for I felt for the old woman. I felt deeply as I too had lost my dad and he had no memorial.
“What is it going to cost me, can I afford it?” she asked. I saw her take a small white lace trimmed handkerchief and daub the tears. “I don’t want to lose Billy’s tree.”
“Maam, to do it right it will cost a lot, but let me do some checking and asking.” I had an idea. You see this was an old street and from the fence in front to the curb was about twenty feet with the sidewalk being three feet. Some people had made a parking space in the open space where others had flower gardens or just lawns. “Hmm,” I said as I wondered about the Ordinance with respect to this situation.
I called my friend Joe who was a concrete man and he gave me a ball park figure that was way high, then when I asked, “This old lady has a memorial plaque to her fallen son, she can’t afford that.”
“Joe laughed, hey Monday I will be pouring a lot of concrete, bring your old dump truck and I will have them pour the excess into it then you can put in some footers and then you can later pour a raised sidewalk that will leave room for the tree roots.”
“Hey thanks Joe, would you loan me some forms when they are idle? I will make this a small raised walk in a small park,” I said.
“Who is this woman or who was her son?” Joe asked. When I replied William Z. Warren, Joe laughed, “He and my dad were friends, matter of fact he loaned my dad money to start the business. Yes I will help you.”
I had six days to get ready so I went to the VFW and other Veterans organizations and by Thursday I was set. I got my permit and Sunday I made forms for footers so I could pour a suspended walkway that would allow the tree roots to not be disturbed. Bob Jesselman at Powers offered some trim rock.
Well Monday I got my old dump truck loaded with concrete then I poured my footers. Seems a couple builders dropped me off some rebar and the community helped me as now Mrs. Warren has a small memorial park in front of her house. It has a raised sidewalk, a nice old wrought iron fence and two benches with a small re circulating fountain. I ended up with my picture in the paper and five hundred bucks for a full week of long days; however Mrs. Warren and the military along with the dippy mayor and city council dedicated it.
I have been repaid for I have more work than I can do but as I drive by Mrs. Warren’s I get a little choked up as I think of the local boy who rose to earn three stars.