The coast of Maine is dotted with quiet, out-of-the-way spots, far away from the hustle and bustle of the state’s tourist attractions.
One such spot is Mariners Memorial Park. Nestled on the shores of Deer Isle, not far from the village center, the park is a peaceful getaway where visitors can walk paths winding past blooming shrubs and flowers, and follow the sounds of sea birds and surf down to the water’s edge.
Places such as these don’t just happen. Mariners Park is tended regularly by members of the local Evergreen Garden Club, who have worked over the years to care for the grounds — mowing, trimming and clearing brush — to keep the park in tip-top condition for the public. Among those volunteers is Marshall Rice Sr., a longtime Deer Isle resident, who has worked with the garden club for more than 50 years. Although the Island Heritage Trust, a local land conservation organization, oversees the property now, Rice, 91, and other garden club members continue to maintain the grounds, which the club still owns.
“We just try to keep the place in order,” Rice says. “I like to do it. I’ve just been somebody who’s been willing to do it. I’m still willing.”
As a civilian working in Hawaii, Rice survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and returned to Deer Isle, his adopted home, where he has worked in the plumbing and heating business. He built homes, a church fellowship hall and a Masonic center, and he and his wife built and ran a campground for almost a decade. But it has been the park that has been a constant project for him for more than half his life. He had been exposed to gardening as a boy and it wasn’t long after his return from the war before he joined the local garden club.
“My grandfather was a nurseryman,” Rice says. “This was a way to get my fingers back in the ground again.”
In addition, a few years ago when the garden club also began to tend the flower and vegetable gardens at the Island Nursing Home, Rice was right there to help, often encouraging the elder residents to join in.
“I’m physically fit,” he says. “I’ve been active, I’m still active and I’m just tickled to death to be there doing something I think is useful.’’