By Megan Alley
A local woman has found a way to honor veterans on Memorial Day, and throughout the year, with a commemorative garden in her backyard.
Othia Wagner, 62, of Goshen started the garden when she and her husband Jerry Wagner moved to the house in 1983. She was inspired to do so by memories of growing up in West Virginia and leaving flowers on the graves of those, including friends and family, who had served in the military.
Wagner, who is visually impaired, doesn’t have the ability to frequently visit the graves of her loved ones, so she made her own “little memorial.”
“That way, on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, I can honor them, even if I can’t travel everywhere to do that,” she said. “I thought, well, I could do my own little program here, even if it’s just me standing there by myself; I can do my own little memorial and it doesn’t have to be something grand.”
The garden is divided into sections – the Civil War, the Korean War, family and friends who are veterans, veterans from Clermont County that were killed in the Vietnam War, veterans from outside of Clermont County who served in the Vietnam War and veterans from Clermont County who served in the Middle East.
Each name features a flag and homemade plaque.
Wagner described her ritual for honoring the veterans.
“It’s really not anything elaborate,” Wagner said. “Every day, when I go out, and especially on Memorial Day, I’ll look at everybody’s name and say their name, and try to get a mental image of what they are, and thank them for their service.”
She added, “It’s really just a little personal type thing, but it’s my way of saying thank you to them and remembering them.”
Wagner described what it’s like to have the garden, and pay tribute to the veterans.
“It brings about feelings of grief, but then after the initial grief was happiness and peacefulness … I can sit there and I can think about these people,” Wagner said. “I try not to dwell on the fact that these people aren’t here anymore, I try to dwell on the fact that they were here.”
She added, “It’s not like a cemetery; it’s a happy cheerful place.”
Wagner said that being surrounded by the names of people that have died helps her remember the life they lived.
“I feel like everybody that I’ve lost is not really gone, because even though it’s just a name on a log or a stone, they’re still here with me, and that makes me happy,” she said.