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Rededication of park honors local suffragist on 100-year anniversary

Virginia Bradshaw
The Shawnee News-Star

COVID 19 concerns have caused cancellation or lengthy postponement of just about all the big events that occur annually, or that had been in planning stages for many months around here and statewide- except one.

That one is a re-dedication of a renovated Larch-Miller Park to Aloysius Larch-Miller who gave her life in the fight for women’s right to vote 100 years ago.

The event, set to also re-dedicate a century-old memorial to the 33-year-old Shawnee teacher will be at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 23 in Larch-Miller Park, directly across from Redbud Park, on the east side of the 900 block of North Broadway.

The re-dedication program will begin at the corner of Wallace and Broadway when some 10 to 20 young women, dressed in white with purple and yellow sashes, will act as suffragists and progress north on Broadway to the entrance to the park. The white they will be wearing denotes purity, the purple, loyalty and the yellow, hope.

During the program, Rebecca Fry, of Shawnee Little Theatre, will perform as a suffragist in a reenactment of the early 20th Century campaign to pass the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that grants women the right to vote, ratified 100 years ago.

This event, in planning stages since Shawnee community leader Tom Terry thought of the idea in November 2019 or earlier, is probably still on because it will be entirely outdoors, said Marilyn Bradford, retired Shawnee Public Schools superintendent who has worked with Terry on program plans since then.

It is admission free and everyone is welcome, however, “we want people to wear masks and practice social distancing,” she added.

Terry, retired long-time Oklahoma Baptist University administrator, author, gardening columnist and winner of state awards for community beautification efforts, had written an article in 2014 about the park and Aloysius Larch-Miller, Bradford recalled.

“He told me he wanted to do a Shawnee beautification project on the park,” she said. That’s how this event started.

Terry wanted to enter the park in the Keep Oklahoma Beautiful competition, so the Shawnee Beautification Committee, the Shawnee Parks Department, OBU and Pottawatomie Advocates for Voter Education “have all been working together on the re-dedication of the park and celebration of Aloysius’ life,” Bradford continued.

Gordon Cooper Technology Center has volunteered to make a new sign that matches the one at Redbud Park, on the west side of Broadway, directly across the street from Larch-Miller Park.

Terry will speak about how the participating organizations have contributed to the small, stream-side pocket park’s renovation, and will introduce people from those organizations that have made it happen.

Shawnee Mayor Ed Bolt is to read a proclamation officially designating August 23, 2020, as Aloysius Larch-Miller Day in Shawnee.

Susan Morris is expected to represent the local chapter of the American Red Cross, which was one of the service organizations in which Aloysius Larch-Miller was very active.

Two members of the Larch-Miller family, Mark Larch-Miller and his sister, Cheryl, will be among those introduced.

A benediction will be presented by Dr. Tiffany Monroe of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church during the closing ceremony.

“As people leave the park, they can take an ‘I Voted’ sticker,” Bradford said. “That was typically done when a suffragist died. They would drop their ‘I Voted’ stickers and flower petals at the base of the memorial.”

At the Broadway entrance to the park, visitors will see attached to a large boulder, the stone memorial to Miss Larch-Miller.

Given by Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the American Women’s Suffrage Association a century ago, it reads, “Memorial Park, in memory of Aloysius Larch-Miller who gave her life for the enfranchisement of women Feb. 2, 1920.”

The park contains numerous new plantings, some new playground equipment and newly painted existing swings, slides, etc., all designed for children, especially special needs kids. All improvements are in Miss Larch-Miller’s memory.

Shawnee’s Larch-Miller Park beautification project entry has just been submitted to this year’s Keep Oklahoma Beautiful contest.

Watch for a featured profile of Aloysius Larch-Miller in The Shawnee News-Star Weekender edition.