Reading Grove Renovations Wrapping Up

Reading grove renovations wrapping up
By Gary Meece

There was one bright spot among all the news stories about the 20th anniversary of the deaths of Michael Moore, Christopher Byers and Stevie Branch.

Thanks to a grassroots effort, the “reading grove” at Weaver Elementary School memorializing the three second-graders has been renovated, and 20 yellow rose bushes have been planted around the gazebo there to mark the 20 years since the boys’ murders. 

Work was still under way Wednesday morning, after many delays because of rain over the last week, with the final touches expected later in the day.

Earlier Wednesday morning, Weaver Principal Sheila Grissom had $2,791 in donations toward the $2,884 cost of the landscaping. And two envelopes were still unopened in her office.

The first envelope yielded $50 while the second held $31 in cash. “We’re there!” exulted the principal as she pulled out her calculator. With a total of $2,872 donated so far, she said, laughing, “I think we can come up with the other $12.”

That was good news for Mrs. Grissom, who has had an even busier than usual last few weeks as an unaccustomed media presence on a number of TV stations and other media outlets. 

Last Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the murders of the three 8-year-old Cub Scouts in a formerly wooded area nearby. A full-page ad in the Evening Times memorialized the boys, and related stories have continued to play out over television, radio and newspapers.

Prompted by a column and a photo in the Evening Times last month, and spurred on by initial contributions from area residents, the reading grove fund was set up to honor the boys by making improvements to their memorial.

Memphis Realtors Michael and Lesia Ford with Coldwell Banker Heritage Homes organized an effort to repaint the gazebo in brighter colors, repair damaged benches, add trash receptacles and cover exposed nails in the ceiling. 

“I am so proud to be from Crittenden County and West Memphis. We read this article in the paper and then we went over there to take a look at the reading grove,” said Michael Ford last week about his involvement. “We decided that this was a project we wanted to be involved in. The outpouring of support really makes me proud to be a part of this community.”

The Weaver Reading Grove, constructed in 1994, includes a gazebo, benches and a memorial stone. The structure continues to be used as a playground shelter.

The work was done by TC Landscaping in conjunction with O’Neal Landscaping of West Memphis. Any additional funds will be used for future Weaver Reading Grove and playground maintenance. 

Send donations to:

Weaver Elementary Reading Grove/Playground Fund

1280 East Barton Ave.

West Memphis, AR 72301

For more information contact Sheila Grissom, Weaver Elementary School principal, at or 870-735-7670.

Across town, on Sunday, members of the Moore family, church members and friends gathered for the blessing of a cherry tree that was planted by Michael Moore’s Sunday school class about a week after Michael’s body was found along with the bodies of his two little friends on May 6, 1993. 

Members of the Moore family were on hand for the original planting of the tree and for Sunday’s ceremony.

Todd Moore, Michael’s father, has lifelong ties to the church — he was baptized at Holy Cross in 1965. A sign designating the tree as “Michael’s Tree” was donated by Steve Mullen, Safeguard Window and Door and Lovelady Graphics, who did the lettering.

Three local teens were convicted of the murders in 1994 and were freed from prison almost two years ago after pleading guilty.

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