Garfield High School was more than a building. Garfield High was a vessel that built memories of family, friendship, and friendly rivalries. On Friday, November 10th, at 2:00 p.m., classmates and loved ones of Garfield High School will gather on the corner of 12th and Maple Avenue. Together, they will celebrate the past as they work toward building new memories in the future by breaking ground on the Garfield Purple Eagle Plaza.

Rivalry and Respect

Wiley High School has a lovely memorial outside the Vigo County Public Library on 7th Street. Gerstmeyer High School has a concrete memorial on the corner of 13th and Locust. Schulte High School has a big bear out front on Ohio Boulevard. Garfield High has a memorable but small memorial where the school once stood. 

In May 2019,Susan Mardis contacted Pat Chaney, the four year Class Pesident and a graphic artist   David Haynes, and Pat Chaney came together and decided they wanted a monument representing the esteemed character Garfield High faculty instilled in its students. Together, they sketched out their dreams. “We had a champagne taste while on a beer budget. We’re now down to the beer taste with our beer budget,” Class of ‘69 Garfield Graduate David Haynes said. 

Designing the Plaza

Their vision is far from a bitter beer taste. Together, they enlisted help from renowned local sculptor Bill Wolfe. Bill sculpted a giant bronzed eagle with a wingspan boasting 8-foot wide. “It’s majestic,” Haynes explained. The eagle will be perched on top of cast concrete, appearing as staggered school books. The eagle will hold the limelight of the upcoming Garfield Purple Eagle Plaza. The eagle will be surrounded by an etched memorial brick plaza. “We have been taking orders for the engraved bricks until the last minute,” Class of 71’ Garfield High School graduate Susan Hamblen Mardis said. 

Meaningful Monument

Organizers of the Garfield Purple Eagle Plaza have looked forward to planning and creating a space for their kids and their grandchildren. The Plaza will sit ensconced between the Collett Park neighborhood and the 12-Points area. Mardis says there is some great history in the high schools that existed here.  Sure, there were rivalries, but they were more a combination of rivalry and respect. The high schools provided excitement for our community, whether it be their homecomings, games, or sporting events. The schools also provided excellent education for kids who became the local leaders in our community. 

Tragically, many people who were first at the table in developing the Garfield Purple Eagle Plaza have passed. A testament to their passion for their high school can be read in their obituaries. Where you went to high school is a birthright passage question in Terre Haute. It’s a question that, when answered, creates a connection to the community, history, and era they attended. “I can still sing my high school fight song. We had great traditions in sports, music, theater, and in our education,” Haynes reflected. 

Memories Memoralized

As alumni walk by the future Garfield Purple Eagle Plaza, the hope is they will take great pride that their high school is memorialized on the corner. The buildings may be long gone, but the relationships built there live on. “It’s important to see that someone would take the time to set aside a little bit of ground and remember where they went to high school and who they went to high school with,” Haynes explained.

Earl C. Rodgers & Associates