In his nearly 101 years of life, Jerry Peddicord has worn many hats. From serving as a U.S. Navy captain and pilot in the Pacific theater of World War II and the Korean War to being a beautifier for the city of Pottsboro, Peddicord has filed many roles and jobs both in Texoma and abroad.
The land he has worked hard to preserve will be giving back Peddicord this week. Pottsboro will honor these contributions Monday by rededicating Peddicord Circle — a long-time beautification project — in his honor on its 20th anniversary.
The green space located at the intersection of FM 120 and Spur 316, which already bears his name, will now feature a sculpture of an eagle in honor Peddicord and all veterans.
“A lot of this is due to his amazing work that he has done around the city for keeping highways clean, organizing work crews, planting multiple plant sites including the more than 120 crape myrtles that line going into Pottsboro,” friend and long-time neighbor Mike Roach said.
Peddicord’s work in Pottsboro came after his retirement from a more than 30-year career in the U.S. Navy as a seaman and later pilot. In the 1980s, Peddicord started getting more involved within the city and was looking for ways to improve the land he loves.
“I made the comments back then that Pottsboro could be the model city if they just worked it right,” he said.
Peddicord said one of the defining moments in his decision to beautify his community was a conversation with a visiting friend who made comments about litter around the city and other across North Texas and Southern Oklahoma.
“It hit me in the gut,” he said. “I knew it was bad, but I didn’t want him to think so.”
Peddicord’s efforts to plant trees and clean up trash along the city’s roadways ultimately culminated in the creation of the Keep Pottsboro Beautiful committee, of which he is the founder.
“I am a Navy man and the Navy is always a clean place — the ships are always spic and span,” Peddicord said.
In the 1990s, Peddicord turned his attention to a project that would later bear his name. When the Texas Department of Transportation built Spur 316 along FM 120, Peddicord saw the opportunity to build a traffic circle with bushes and greenery between the two roadways.
Peddicord Circle, as it is known today, includes many bushes and brickwork that Peddicord installed himself. The site also features a 1910 flagpole, which once stood at the Grayson County Courthouse in Sherman for many years.
Among the plants that Peddicord planted in the circle was a pine tree that eventually grew large enough to rival the flagpole in height.
Roach, who had lived next door to Peddicord for more than a decade, said he has taken over maintenance of the circle since Peddicord moved out of Pottsboro to a retirement home in the Sherman area. Roach said the pine tree was not in the best shape and needed maintenance following several storms that had damaged many of its limbs.
“Some ice storms had pretty much stripped it of most of its needles and limbs,” Roach said. “We looked at it and were thinking about what to do with it.”
Organizers first thought about making the tree into a totem pole but eventually settled on making it a pedestal for public art.
Roach approached chainsaw artist Mile Schaefer about carving something to top the tree trunk. At first, he thought that part of the tree, which was trimmed down to 25 feet in height, could be the material for the sculpture, but Schaefer already had a project underway that fit the tone for the small green space.
Schaefer had started a sculpture about 18 months ago, but stopped as he had no distinct plans for the project.
“Sometimes I get started with a project because I like a particular piece of wood, but I stop midway because I don’t have an end purpose,” he said.
Schaefer had not met Peddicord but felt inspired by the stories of his life to take the unfinished piece and make it into an eagle. He was inspired to sculpt the bird as it represented not only the strength and might of the United States but also the determination of the men and women who have served it in the armed forces.
The project was unusual for Schaefer compared to his other pieces as the wings were carved separately and attached to the body. The eagle sculpture also required custom-built eyes, as it is slightly larger than a living eagle, he said.
The sculpture has already been mounted on top of the tree in preparation for the rededication and unveiling next week. Roach is confident that the sculpture will be able to stand the test of time and will be a fixture of the circle for years to come.
“It has already survived a couple of our 60 mile-per-hour wind storms, so we think we did this well” he said.