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North Hall garden blooms with perennial memories
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Kaitlin Burchett, left, and Allison Cape walk a path of a memorial garden they helped create. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

More than 10 years after a memorial was erected in the honor of those who died in the 1998 North Hall tornado, a memorial garden has been planted in an open spot on the North Hall High School campus.

The student government recently took on the project with a little nudge from principal Joe Gheesling.

“Basically, our principal asked us and brought it to our attention,” said Allison Cape, 16, who will be a junior in the fall. “There was just a dirt path with a little mulch, none of the flowers were here at all, none of the brick pavers.”

The 1998 tornado that cut through North Hall County and North Hall High came early in the morning before classes, but took the lives of residents Calvin Little Jr., Tonja Simerly and Austin Simerly.

Today, Calvin Little III is a maintenance worker at North Hall High and was the son and brother of the three who died.

So, Cape and about 20 other students, including student government president Kaitlin Burchett, organized a day of planting and gardening to rejuvenate the garden space.

The students added plants around the memorial, including flowers, spread mulch and laid pavers for the project.

“We mainly chose perennials that will come back, and also the lantana that you see is really drought resistant,” Cape said. “When we went to pick out the flowers, we wanted really bright flowers was the main thing — and cost.”

Variegated hostas, azaleas, knock-out roses, a hydrangea, Denver daises and tiger eyes also were planted around the garden. Mulch was donated from Rick Foote, the Natural Resources Coordinator for Hall County.

Burchett, a rising senior, said she hopes students and teachers enjoy the new garden.

“People walk from the parking lot in, and that would be the main use,” she said. “Traffic through here is big all throughout the day. We’re definitely going to maintain the garden on a yearly basis.”

The school’s maintenance crew will take care of the general upkeep, she said, but the students will take charge of bringing in new mulch and pine straw.

Burchett added that she was especially proud of the garden because the student council was involved in more service projects this year.

“We didn’t just do homecoming; it was kind of like we’ve really done something,” she said. “Service projects and homecoming for the first time this year.”

A new addition will be added to the garden in the fall.

“A wrought-iron fence will be added at the start of the school year and was made by Mr. Turpin,” Cape said. “The fence will run the length of the garden.”

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