(San Francisco Chronicle – Aug. 23, 2018)
There will be a solemn ceremony at noon on Saturday at Heroes Grove, the site of a nearly forgotten monument in Golden Gate Park, to honor 761 San Franciscans who died in the war to end all wars a century ago.
The monument is an 18-ton granite stone carved with the names of 748 men and 13 women from San Francisco who died in World War I. The site, called the Grove of Heroes, is surrounded by redwood trees and reached by an unmarked trail near the park entrance at 10th Avenue and Fulton Street.
“It is a very beautiful place, a quiet spot where you could come and reflect,” said retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. J. Michael Myatt, chair of San Francisco’s World War I Centennial commemoration.
Heroes Grove was dedicated with great fanfare in 1932 by the Gold Star Mothers of San Francisco, women who had lost sons and daughters in the war.
“The city they called home has not forgotten their sacrifice,” The Chronicle wrote at the time.
Thousands of San Franciscans served in the Great War, which the United States entered in April 1917. Many of them were members of the 363rd Infantry Regiment — called San Francisco’s Own — which served in combat in France in 1918.
The war ended in an armistice on Nov. 11, 1918, and there was a huge parade up Market Street from the Ferry Building when the 363rd returned home in 1919.
The ceremonies also will include the dedication of a large memorial seating rock to honor those who lost their lives in all wars and a commemoration of Army Cpl. Timothy Shea, a Sonoma resident who was killed in an ambush in Iraq on Aug. 25, 2005. He was 22 when he died.
His mother, Mary Shea, will read a poem in his honor.
Eventually, Myatt said, the Gold Star Parents and the city’s Recreation and Park Commission hope to add other commemorative rocks around the large World War I monument.
A group of volunteers will clean up the area around the Heroes Grove before Saturday’s event. The grove is not untidy; it is merely neglected and mostly forgotten. Even Myatt, who has been active in veterans affairs in San Francisco for years, had not heard of Heroes Grove until it was brought to his attention this year.
It is a quiet corner of the park, with a small trail and some underbrush surrounded by redwood trees, like a glen in the forest. Josefine Roth was there the other morning with her 2-year-old daughter, Georgia. The little girl ran her fingers over the names on the monument, but her mother said she herself didn’t know what the monument represented.
She said it was a favorite place to go for a walk in the park, quiet and peaceful.