The History of the CHS Memorial Forest

Mary Lou (Zarkades) Barton ’54 on her walk to the ROCK

by John R Barton ’54

Cleveland High School of Seattle is the only high school in the universe with a memorial forest dedicated to alumni who lost their lives during WW II.  During this war, students of Cleveland High (a low-income district) looked for a way to honor former classmates who sacrificed their lives during the war.  Science teacher Joseph Hazzard suggested they purchase a tract of land and make it into a memorial forest.

Over two years (1943-1944) they collected $300 by holding car washes, fundraisers like the senior play, bake sales, donating pocket change, and doing odd jobs.  Vice Principal Ray Imus took the money to a county tax auction of logged-off land.  Word got around of what he and the Cleveland students were trying to accomplish, and no one bid against him when he bid on a tract of land covering 151.52 acres.  At the time it was a field of stumps.

Yes, a field of stumps, but not for long.  Weyerhaeuser donated 10,000 seedlings comprised of Western Red Cedar, Sitka Spruce, and Douglas Fir.  The students planted and nurtured the seedlings, put a fence around the property with a gate, made trails, dug a well, and installed restrooms with a sewage drain field.  They also designed and built an A-frame utility shed and a lyceum measuring approximately 50×25 feet.

Students in Metal Shop designed and made a bronze plaque listing the names of 28 CHS alumni who were killed while serving in the United States armed forces during the war.  That plaque was mounted on “The Rock,” a large boulder located near the middle of the forest.  And today we have a beautiful forest worth over $20 million.

The property was purchased in the name of CHS Principal Kenneth Selby.  It was learned that the school couldn’t own property so it was given to Seattle Public Schools (SPS) as a perpetual memorial to . . . “the Cleveland boys who gave their lives during the war.”

A few years later another plaque added the names of two more fallen alumni who died during the war.  As time passed, another plaque was added to honor seven alumni who died during the Korean War and four alumni who died during the Vietnam War.  All three of the plaques were mounted on The Rock near the middle of the forest.

Pat Rosenkranz (CHS class of 1949) published a book in 2002 about our fallen heroes. HONORED DEAD, tells “The story of Cleveland High School’s World War II Gold Star Men.”  Starting with the work completed by teacher Faith Beatty and her students who researched each fallen hero.  Pat provided a chapter on each covering how they lived and how and where they died, and how the battle they were in related to the overall war.  The book includes two additional alumni who were not listed in the plaques on The Rock — for a total of 32 CHS alumni who died during the war.

For many years, the CHS Alumni Association (CHSAA) has been hosting a ceremony to honor our war dead on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.  This ceremony traditionally includes two-to-four bus loads of CHS students and staff, an Honor Guard firing a salute, the playing of Taps, the folding of the flag by students, and the presentation of the flag to a survivor.  This is followed by guest speakers and, on occasion, a flyover of one or more military aircraft.  CHSAA also provides sandwiches and beverages for the guests.  As part of their visit to the forest, guests are encouraged to make the trek to The Rock to see the plaques listing the CHS alumni who sacrificed their lives during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

In January of 2015, CHSAA was notified by the Garfield High School PTA that the bronze plaques listing the CHS war dead were missing.  The plaques were apparently ripped off and sold for scrap metal by some low-life person who had no respect for the men listed on the plaques and the sacrifices they made for our country during the recent wars.  How despicable.

How do we honor our war dead ???  We took a lesson from Thutmosis IV of Egypt who dreamed that the sun god spoke to him and told him that if he cleared away the sand from around the Sphinx, he would make him ruler of upper and lower Egypt.  He cleared away the sand and the dream came true.  The hieroglyphics of the Dream Stone tell the story.  The Dream Stone is a granite monument located between the front legs of the Sphinx and the story is still legible after 3000 years.  We decided to honor our CHS war dead with a granite monument.  Hopefully, it will last for 3000 years.

CHSAA rededicated the CHS Memorial forest on May 26, 2017 — the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.  And we displayed for the first time our new granite monument [paid for by an anonymous donor].  The monument is difficult to steal because it weighs a ton, and used granite has little resale value.  The front side of the monument provides a brief story of the forest with a listing of the 32 CHS alumni who died during World War II, as well as the seven alumni who died in the Korean War and four more who died in the Vietnam War.  The backside of the monument has engraved images of a sailor, an airman, a soldier, and a Marine.

Our ceremony in 2017 included Brent Jones, representing Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and we had a flyover of a WW II vintage aircraft.  But the pilot didn’t do a simple flyover.  “He was diving towards our audience and doing a partial roll of the aircraft so he could see us and the crowd could see him.  It was GREAT !!!”

As the CHS Memorial Forest grew in value over the years, many CHS alumni were concerned that the property would be sold just for the money.  CHSAA alumni worked to develop a plan for selling the development rights of the property so SPS or any future owner could never develop the property.  On March 10, 2021, the Seattle School Board agreed to sell the development rights of the memorial forest to the King County Parks Department so the property could be included in their Land Conservation Program.  This transaction of $3.47 million included the entire 131.52 acres, excluding 10 acres for building structures and parking.  This agreement was finalized on April 1, 2022.

Also, in 2021, CHSAA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with SPS outlining our use of the forest, and this included authorization to erect a new sign properly naming the property.  Some had been calling the property the Cleveland Memorial Forest.  No disrespect intended, but this forest has nothing to do with President Grover Cleveland, and there’s already a Cleveland National Forest in California.  We can’t properly honor our fallen heroes unless we identify who they are or where they were from.  To properly honor our CHS war heroes, “high school” must be included in the name.  The new sign will identify the property as



The original bronze plaque was made in the CHS Metal Shop

Plaque was added when two more fallen heroes were discovered

Plaque listing CHS alumni who died in the Korean War and the Vietnam War

The 3 plaques shown mounted to The Rock near the middle of the forest

Pat Rosenkranz wrote Honored Dead, the story of CHS alumni who died in WW II

The Rock how it appeared after the plaques were ripped off

The granite monument listing

the CHS alumni war dead

The backside of the granite monument shows

a sailor, an airman, a soldier & a Marine

Proposed sign for the CHS Memorial Forest

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