The Biscayne Times

Jan 20th
Relics, Remembrance, Rest PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
November 2017


Memorial Park in Miami Shores is a place to honor Americans

OParkPatrol_1n the northwest corner of NE 2nd Avenue and NE 93rd Street in Miami Shores, across from Optimist Park, is a half-century-old majestic oak tree with a bronze plaque reading: “The Freedom Tree/With the vision of Universal Freedom/For all mankind/This tree is dedicated to Lt. Ralph Bisz/ And all prisoners of war and missing in action/1973.”

Ralph Campion Bisz of Miami Shores, a U.S. Navy pilot and lieutenant commander, was one of 2500 American POW/MIAs and 1200 reported killed in action but whose bodies were not recovered during the Vietnam War.

On August 4, 1967, his A-4E Skyhawk aircraft was hit by an enemy surface-to-air missile and crashed near Hai Duong in the Hai Hung Province, according to the Department of Defense. He was initially listed as a prisoner of war.

It may be that thousands of Americans wore Bisz’s name on their wrists, as five million engraved metallic bracelets bearing the names of POW/MIA servicemen were distributed during the war, to be worn until the namesakes returned home. His wearers waited for decades.

From February through April 1973, 591 American POWs were returned during Operation Homecoming, but Bisz wasn’t among them. It was later determined that he had been killed on the missile’s impact and that his remains were buried in Hanoi.

ParkPatrol_2In 1988, remains from his crash site were turned over by the Vietnamese government to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. It would take another 20 years to positively identify them through advanced DNA testing and dental comparisons. Bisz was finally buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in 2008.

The same large greenspace where the Freedom Tree was planted was dedicated as Memorial Park on May 30, 1976. A wall was erected in a stamped-concrete plaza displaying bronze seals of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force, as well as the Presidential Seal. In front of the wall are three engraved stone markers honoring those who served, those who died, and those still missing in action. On a recent BT visit, three flags flew at half-staff in honor of the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting victims in Las Vegas.

Over the years, other memorials have been added. A World War II monument was created by the Miami Shores American Legion Post 124 and sponsors, which bears the names of 346 Shores residents who served during that war.

On September 11, 2012, an architectural steel beam that once supported one of the twin towers in lower Manhattan was unveiled at Memorial Park. World Trade Center artifact No. G0090 was donated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to Miami Shores Village. Local benefactors made the installation possible.

ParkPatrol_3According to Memory Remains: 9/11 Artifacts at Hangar 17, a photographic book by Francesc Torres published by National Geographic, 1.8 million tons of debris were removed from Ground Zero during the nine-month cleanup and recovery. Less than two-tenths of one percent -- 1200 pieces of steel and other recovered objects, such as vehicles and file cabinets -- were brought to the aviation hangar at JFK, where they were tagged and catalogued and eventually transferred to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, as well as communities and firehouses around the world.

The relic in Memorial Park is filled with rebar and concrete, and is protected within a glass case. According to Torres, most of the concrete in the World Trade Center buildings was reduced to dust, but some, as in the park artifact, were forged by heat and pressure into the steel beams.

“I will never forget where I was when I saw the planes go into the towers,” recalls Herta Holly, who read in the New York Times and the Miami Herald about the public offering of artifacts, and saw the need for one in her hometown so that history would not be forgotten. As vice mayor of Miami Shores Village at the time, Holly says, “It was very important to me that we get an artifact -- important for our children to know what had happened that day -- for this generation and the ones to come.”

ParkPatrol_4She saw to it that the Village applied, having no idea of the object’s size, and with the condition that it not be altered in any way and be used to create a memorial. The total cost to the Village, which included transportation, encasement, and a plaque, was $14,000, all of which came from sales of wristbands, sponsor donations, and a significant Barry University endowment.

Memorial Park has a large, well-groomed lawn, with 12 oak trees along the perimeters, five sabal palms on the NE 2nd Avenue sidewalk, one royal poinciana, and strategically placed bushes and hedges. A fountain greets visitors at the park’s north end; and a wall bearing the park’s name stands at the south entrance near the Freedom Tree. The scene is serene. “It’s a thoughtful place,” says Holly.

Twice a year the park hosts major festivities. The annual spring concert in late March or early April is organized by the Miami Shores Fine Arts Commission, of which Susan Ackley is the longtime chair. “The concerts do include extra attractions for children -- face painting, balloon art, and a caricaturist,” she says. “We’ve also expanded the food options.” Two blocks of NE 2nd Avenue are closed off for the family event.

ParkPatrol_5Brockway Memorial Library director Michelle Brown says the park’s Memorial Day ceremony tradition of book donations began in the early 1990s. “Today nearly 20 local organizations and schools donate a book or books in honor of the special day each year. Library staff work with the Recreation Department, which puts together the beautiful event,” she explains. The Miami Shores Fine Arts Commission donated the Torres book in 2014.

Veterans, village dignitaries, Boy and Girl Scouts, and residents gather under a large tent for a morning of remembrance, guest speakers, live patriotic music, and refreshments. Library staff wrap each donated book to be presented with red, white, and blue ribbons, and inside each book, the name of the participating group is placed on a book plate in honor of the occasion.


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Miami Shores Village Memorial Park
NE 2nd Avenue and 93rd Street
Miami Shores, FL 33138

Park Rating


Sunrise to sunset
Picnic Tables: Yes
Barbecues: No
Picnic pavilions: No
Memorials: Yes
Athletic Fields: No
Night lighting: Yes
Benches: Yes
Playground: No


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