War Memorial crowd enjoys friendship and fun on Fourth

July 05, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It wasn't just renewed patriotism that brought people together at War Memorial Park in Martinsburg on Thursday but that was a big part of it, and for some, family, friendship and fun were icing on the cake.

"I decided it would be better to be here with friends in the heat than home alone in my air-conditioned apartment," said Alda Haynes.

Haynes, 71, who lives at Ambrose Towers, was invited to spend the day at the park with Becky Owens, Becky's boyfriend, Edgar Donivan, and their extended family.


"I've known Alda a long time. ... She was friends with my aunt," Owens said as she sat at a picnic table and watched the activities getting under way at midday Thursday.

Ann Moats, 54, of Martinsburg, was there with her two grandchildren. Moats and Becky Owens, who are sisters, recalled coming to the park when they were youngsters.

"There were 10 of us kids and we'd all come with our mom and dad in a taxi from the other end of town," Owens said. "I remember our parents would line us up and count to 10 a couple of times to make sure we were all there."

On Thursday, there was a miniature train ride and ponies for children, miniature golf and swimming for those looking to beat the oppressive heat.

Music, the smell of food and the anticipation of the evening's fireworks display combined to make for a good time for those who ventured out.

By 11 a.m., most picnic tables had been claimed. Two tables near the entrance to the pool were occupied early by Becky Stevens of Sharpsburg, Md., her husband, Kevin, and their two children.

"Later, there will be in-laws and their kids plus who knows," Stevens said. "The kids swim all day and then we picnic."

About four years ago, Becky Stevens struck up a friendship with several of the War Memorial Park lifeguards. Now she is known as "pool mom" to them.

"I'm just a friendly person. It all started over a talk about my tan," she said. "Plus, I must say the lifeguards here are just the greatest with kids."

A widow for 24 years and dealing with failing eyesight, Alda Haynes said she needs to be with friends now more than ever.

"I have a lot to be thankful for," she said.

Fun and games aside, Owens said she always thinks about the people who died in wars when she comes to War Memorial Park.

"We should all think about the freedoms we have and be grateful," Owens said.

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