Memories take flight

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Butterflies released to honor Mayor Shaw

By Mandy Catoe

A dozen butterflies were released Wednesday morning at Red Rose Park in the heart of Lancaster in honor of the late Mayor Joe Shaw, who served the city for 33 years.
More than 30 citizens, city and county officials, garden club members and special guest Charlotte Shaw, widow of Joe Shaw, were in attendance to honor the former mayor.
Shaw was mayor from 1978-94 and returned in 1998 and served 17 more years until his death last November. In 2010, Shaw was awarded the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, for his lifetime achievement and service.
The Lancaster Garden Club hosted the event as part of National Garden Week’s celebration, held each year during the first full week of June.
“When our president, Carolyn Tolson, asked me to chair this committee, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something to honor the memory of Mayor Joe Shaw. He gave up a lot of his life for the city,”  said Lancaster Garden Club member and National Garden Week chair Ann Ferguson.
Ferguson then thanked Charlotte Shaw for sharing him with the city.
Charlotte, with a quick wit, threw her hands into the air and responded, “What can I say? He would have done it anyway.”
Ferguson said Mayor Shaw was always supportive and grateful for the efforts of the garden clubs.
“He would always say we were making his city look pretty,” Ferguson said.
He always supported and attended the garden clubs’ projects such the annual Arbor Day tree-planting and enjoyed the Christmas greenery at the courthouse, she said.  
Ferguson read the following butterfly poem by an unknown poet:
“A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam and for a brief moment it’s glory and beauty belongs to our world, but then it flies away, and though we wish it could have stayed, we feel lucky to have seen it.”
Ferguson then looked at Shaw’s widow and said, “Charlotte, we wish Mayor Shaw could have stayed longer, but he was a red rose that will be planted in our hearts forever.”
“If he were here, he would be crying at this point,” Charlotte said. “That was very sweet. Thank you.”
Longtime friend and County Councilman Larry Honeycutt described Mayor Shaw as a legend, a term too loosely used these days, he said.
“Too often you see people on TV being called legends. They need to come to Lancaster, South Carolina, and hear the story of our mayor, Joe Shaw. Then they would know what a legend really is,” Honeycutt said.
Honeycutt credited Shaw with encouraging him to serve the county 12 years ago. Honeycutt said he felt he was too old to serve and Shaw told him that age was not a problem, but more of a benefit.
“Twelve years later. I am in my third term with county council,” Honeycutt said. “I appreciate his guidance and his friendship. He did so much for us in the county as well as the city.”
Honeycutt shared a story about a time the mayor hauled away trees left on the roadside from Honeycutt’s church, Reformation Lutheran on French Street. The church had put the project off because of a lack of funds. Shaw told them he would take care of it.
“The next day I went to the church and there wasn’t even a pine cone left,” Honeycutt said. “That’s the kind of guy Joe was. He was a dear friend. I looked up to him. This city, this county and this state will miss him greatly.”
Ferguson asked Charlotte to release the first butterfly. Carefully, Shaw’s widow opened a small triangular paper package tab by tab. Amid gasps and sighs, the monarch butterfly took flight after a moment of warming itself in the sun. Then one by one the other eleven were released by various attendees.  
With the blessing and approval of City Administrator Flip Hutfles, local garden clubs began work months ago preparing the space with native plants and a butterfly garden. The Lancaster Garden Club planted flowers and native plants that attract the pollinators in their efforts to preserve wildlife.
“This is a nice symbol for Mayor Shaw, who was big on improving neighborhoods, whether it was raking leaves, straightening a sign that was askew or picking up some garbage,” Hutfles said.
“Fixing those small things make a huge impact in making the city look better,” he said. “A few more plants improve the park, the city and the neighborhood. I am grateful for what the garden clubs do.”
Describing Red Rose Park as a little jewel in the middle of the city, Ferguson said she hopes more residents visit the park to enjoy the peace and calm it offers. Trees, flowers, sculpture, a fountain and benches provide a quick retreat.
The gardens in Red Rose Park are the result of joint efforts by the Lancaster Garden Club, Leaf & Petal and Green Gardeners.
The Lancaster Garden Club built the butterfly garden, which includes pollinating plants, a resting rock and a puddler which holds minerals that attract the butterflies. Labels are next to each item for those wanting to learn more, Ferguson said.
City council member Sara Eddins honored Carolyn Tolson with a framed proclamation about National Garden Week from Lancaster Mayor John Howard.  
Tolson thanked the city and county officials for their part in making the city a beautiful place since the first day she called the Red Rose City home in 1964.
 The ceremony ended and the crowd scattered, but a few butterflies continued to flutter around in their new home – a little green space in the Red Rose City loved and served by Mayor Joe Shaw.


Contact Mandy Catoe at (803) 283-1152