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Mary Downs’ work at veterans park earns Gold Award in Girl Scouts

MADISON – To earn the Gold Award in Girls Scouts, Mary Downs refurbished Madison’s veterans park for both its visual appeal and its acknowledgment of accomplished military leaders.

Several years ago, Downs visualized her project, “Honoring of Medal of Honor Recipients,” when her Girl Scout troop cleaned up the flowerbed at Captain Jesse Ollie Wikle Jr. Veterans Memorial Park on Front Street in downtown Madison.

“We found two Medal of Honor stones buried under the bushes over there,” Downs said. Volunteers moved markers into the flowerbed, but personal information was not displayed about the men, except name, rank and some dates. “I decided to create informational plaques to educate the public on who these heroes are.”

Downs researched Medal of Honor recipients Colonel Bolten and Master Sergeant Bolden of Madison and discovered that Colonel Leo Thorsness, a Madison resident, also earned the medal. “I had a new granite stone and plaque made for Colonel Thorsness. Now, people that visit the park can read the plaques and scan the QR codes and learn about our local heroes,” Downs said.

For her project’s second phase, Downs installed LED lights on the flag poles and monument, along with replacing the park’s sprinkler system. She added metal rails in front of the monument to protect legacy stones and eliminate possible damage from lawnmowers.

She participates in Troop 926 with leaders Jean Downs and Andrea Johnson. Larry Vannoy, Post Commander of Madison American Legion, served as project advisor. Mayor Paul Finley and Councilwoman Connie Spears made donations for lights.

Downs’ project required 100-plus hours. She presented her Gold Project credentials at the 2021 Memorial Day Ceremony at the veterans park to an audience of about 200 people. “Now, when people visit the veterans park, they can learn about local Medal of Honor recipients. I hope that Madison parents take their children to the park to read about them,” she said.

A senior at James Clemens High School, Downs participates with Diamond Dolls for the Jets Baseball Team. In Girl Scouts since first grade, she earned the Presidential Volunteer Service Award three times, Bronze Award, Silver Award and 60-plus skill badges and leadership pins.

She is a member of American Legion Auxiliary, Post 229 and works at Toyota Field for the Trash Pandas.

Downs plans to study early childhood education at Ole Miss.

Her parents are Jeff and Jean Downs. Jeff is Director at Teledyne Brown Engineering, and Jean is Vice President of Operations at SCI.

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