This simple idea spawned the group's first project as the New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs planted 8,000 Dogwood trees along the Blue Star Drive. The designation of the highway, as well as the flowers planted along the route, honored New Jersey residents who served in the Armed Forces.
New Jersey's State Highway Commissioner, Spencer Miller, worked on the New Jersey project, and as guest speaker at the 1945 National Council of State Garden Clubs Annual Meeting in New York City, he proposed that the program be adopted by NCSGC.2 The project was approved at the 1945 Fall Semi-Annual Meeting, a 'ribbon of living memorial plantings traversing every state' called the Blue Star Memorial Highway Program was adopted at the 1946 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, and in 1947, the Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker was designed by Mrs. Frederick R. Kellogg.2
The idea excited garden clubs throughout the United States and Rhode Island became the first state to receive the endorsement. Participants work to provide landscaping along the sides of designated highways and erect markers with official approval from their organization and the state highway departments. By 1951, the program expanded beyond World War II and honored all members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The official Blue Star markers have changed over time. A smaller marker was approved in 1981 in order for markers to be placed in locations other than along highways (at historical sites and parks, for example). In 1994, the marker was changed again to include a tribute to the Armed Forces. In 1996, a third marker was added that mirrored the original marker with the exception of the word Highway, which was removed from the third marker in order to make the memorial broader--this allows for it to be placed at locations such as a National Cemetery or a VA Center. Yet again, the purview of the marker was broadened in 2004 to include further appropriate locations.
West Virginia's first Blue Star Memorial Marker, dedicated in 1970, was in Weirton. Unfortunately, it was lost a couple of years later during road construction. The large Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker on Interstate 64 Eastbound was the fifth Blue Star Memorial Marker dedicated in West Virginia. Originally dedicated in 1988, the marker was refurbished in 2007. There is also a large Blue Star Memorial Marker at the Interstate 64 Westbound rest stop, which was the third in the state, dedicated in 1986. There are over eighty Blue Star Memorial Markers in West Virginia. The Beechwood Estates Garden Club, part of the Ohio-Guyan District, has sponsored or at least co-sponsored three Blue Star Memorial Markers in West Virginia, one at both rest stops on Interstate 64, as well as one at Roadside Park on Route 60.
The Blue Star name stems from the Blue Star that is on the Service Flag. The Blue Star is symbolic of hope and pride, and banners with Blue Stars were given to family members of active soldiers during World War II. Families who lost a service member in combat were given banners with gold stars. Similar to the Blue Star Program, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams is working to create monuments and memorials to Gold Star families throughout the United States.