Karen Boles-Grant is a retired school administrator, and her family owned the land where Boles Community Park in Richmond Hill is now located. The family’s contributions to the city have been many, according to Mayor Russ Carpenter (see comments at bottom). Recently Boles-Grant agreed to do a Q& A in writing with the Bryan County News regarding issues surrounding Boles Park as well as discuss her brother, Sgt. Harry Lee Boles, who was killed Oct. 3, 1969 in Vietnam, and her grandfather, who made many contributions to the community.
Q: When, why and how did your family turn the land over to Richmond Hill to be the site of Boles Park? We’re told the transaction took place in 2004, but there was no sale price listed. Can you explain what happened with regard to the park?
A: Our family was originally offered a very minimal amount for the land. It was a municipal condemnation. No funds were given for our house which was still standing on the land. It was originally supposed to be a park that was to serve the surrounding subdivisions since the developers promised them one and failed to do so. It was promised well over 10 years ago. We enlisted the services of an attorney. After litigation, we were granted market value for the land. After years of correspondences with city officials to no avail, Mayor Carpenter is finally acting on fulfilling broken promises.
Q: Are you frustrated that it’s taken so long to improve Boles Park? Have you been given a timeline by the city on when and how it’ll happen?
A: My frustration lies in my family’s perception of being ignored as if we were invisible when funds were allocated for the project. At the inception of the project, we were shown an architectural rendering of the park. Nobody can seem to find it. Recently, one was shown to me, but it was not the same one that was shown to us years ago. The original one was beautiful. A sign was temporarily placed on the property, but it disappeared. No timeline has been discussed.
Q: What do you want Boles Park to be when it is finished?
A: (Boles-Grant listed numerous improvements).
• Signage: Boles Memorial Park
• Marker designed like the existing historical markers in Richmond Hill because of my grandfather’s and family members’ contributions to the community
• Meditation garden with benches, water fountain, symbols from all major religions.
• Plum trees. We had a plum orchard in our yard.
• Covered pavilion with water fountain and cemented barbecue grills adjacent
• Wooden playground equipment
• Walking path
• Building to house family artifacts to include Harry Lee Boles’ medals. After my generation has passed away his medals will have no significance to others.
Q: What do you want people to know about your brother?
This is the difficult question. Harry Lee was kind, compassionate, handsome, athletic, smart, and innovative. During his first tour of duty, he often sent “care packages” to his younger siblings; i.e., clothes, toys, money. My favorites were a Polaroid camera, a play by numbers organ, and a portable stereo. He was a great baseball and basketball player. He was a dancer extortioner. He was over 6 feet and could go under the limbo stick doing the limbo rock lower than a very short person. He could draw anything. He did many bulletin boards at G. W. Carver School. He could build anything. He was handsome and very strong.
Most significantly, he voluntarily reenlisted in the army during a brutal war because he felt a calling to “help his brothers” still fighting the war. Daddy offered to help him get a job at Union Camp, but Harry Lee insisted on reenlisting. I remember very little about his funeral. The bloated body in the glass covered coffin did not even resemble my brother.
Harry Lee was just shy of 25th birthday when he was killed in action.
Q: In what ways does your brother’s memory stay with you and your family? Why is it important to keep his memory alive? Is he a hero to you personally?
His giving spirit lives on. I often wonder what he would be like if he were alive now. I wish my children and grandchildren could know him. I know they would love him as much as I do. I wonder what his kids would look like.
He and my brother Sam taught so many of the kids in Brisbon, many of whom were stars at Richmond Hill High School, to play basketball.
After the death of the people who knew him, he will be forgotten.
Q: What do you want the public to know about your grandfather and his history in Richmond Hill, and about his legacy.
A: My grandfather (the original owner of the property) founded Canaan Baptist Church on 144 (originally on Cherry Hill Plantation (now Ford Plantation). He was the pastor of Bryan Neck Baptist Church during the Ford Era and was pastor when Mr. Ford renovated the church to the existing building. He also founded Little Bryan Baptist Church in Savannah because many of his members relocated to the East Gwinnett Street area in Savannah in search of gainful employment. He pastored Little Bryan and Bryan Neck simultaneously. He founded New Zion Baptist Church in Riceboro. He was pastor of First African Baptist in Jones (McIntosh County) when the existing edifice was built. He established two prayer houses in the Brisbon Community. He owned a store in the Port Royal Community in Richmond Hill, one in Savannah, and operated a “rolling store” for residents of Riceboro and Jones. I wanted to give respect to the man who started our lineage. I have lots more historical facts about my ancestors. He was a well-read man and had an expansive library.
Service to our country is a legacy of the descendants of the Rev. David Boles, Sr.
Their service is as follows: Frank Scott-greatgrandson- Army Clarence Boles-greatgrandson- Air Force Benjamin Boles, Jr.-Army-Korean War Marcell Boles-greatgrandson- Navy-retired John Edward Niles-grandson-Army- Vietnam Nathaniel Bolesgrandson- Air Force Charlie Niles, Jr.-grandson-Army Herbert Glaze-grandson- Army-Korean War Clarence Boles-son-Army-World War II Keith Boles-greatgrandson- Air Force-Desert Storm-retired George Boles-grandson- Air Force-retired Leslie Boles-son-Army- World War II Harry Lee Bolesgrandson- Army-Vietnam- killed 10/3/1969. He was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, National Rifle Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award, Expert Badge and Rifle Badge.
Charles Boles, Sr.-grandson, Army-Korean War (Major contributor to the Richmond Hill Historical Society) During the integration of public schools in Bryan County, children of Leslie Boles were among the few African American students who chose to attend the once segregated Richmond Hill School under freedom of choice. This transition was smooth because of the efforts of Robert Carpenter (white citizen, and father of Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter) and Leslie Boles and Herbert Harris (African American citizens). The children of Leslie Boles (who lived on the property) had the following accomplishments: George Boles-track, basketball (setting numerous athletic records), Most Valuable Player, Most Athletic- honor student (incomplete) Isaiah Boles-student council president, boys’ typist regional competition, Letterman Club, 4-H Club, Debate Team, Boys’ Solo regional competition, honor student (incomplete).
Karen Boles-4-H Club, Glee Club, Girls’ Trio regional competition, Miss Wildcat Court, girls’ basketball, cheerleader, Drama regional competition, oral interpretation regional competition, honor graduate, Beta Club, Letterman’s Club, President of Future Teachers of America, Yearbook Staff, Betty Crocker Award.
David Boles’ descendants were leaders in our community. His son, Leslie Boles, served on many boards and committees for the County of Bryan. He also served as a deacon at Bryan Neck and Canaan Baptist Church. He added the kitchen, pulpit, and bathrooms to Bryan Neck Baptist Church. His grandson, Charles Boles, worked diligently with the Richmond Hill Historical Society and served as chairman of the board of deacons at Canaan Baptist Church.
The Rev. Isaiah Boles, was president of the Richmond Hill Progressive League during the Civil Rights Era.
Isaiah, Rep. Al Williams, and Mayor Floyd Adams roomed together when they served as state Democratic representative to the National Convention in Miami when he was merely 22.
In addition, descendants of the Rev. David oles, Sr. have a legacy of ministry and church service: Deacon Leslie Bolesson Deacon Charles Boles-grandson Deacon Herbert Glaze-grandson Reverend Nathaniel Boles-grandson Minister John Niles-grandson Reverend Isaiah Boles-grandson Reverend Marcell Boles-great-grandson Reverend Dennis Aikens- great-grandson Deacon Clarence Boles-son Reverend Mary Boles Angry-granddaughter Deacon David Boles, Jr.-son Reverend Karen Boles Grant-granddaughter Deacon Samuel Boles-Grandson.
Mayor Russ Carpenter on Boles Park:
Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter said the Boles family is one of Richmond Hill’s oldest.
“They have contributed much to our community,” he said.
Those contributions include 5.85 acres at 505 Harris Trail Road.
According to city tax records, Richmond Hill acquired the property in 2004 for $0, but further details weren’t immediately available.
However, Carpenter said recently that the city has been working to get promised improvements to the park made.
“For many months, the city has been working primarily with Karen Boles in construction of Boles Park,” Carpenter said in an email in September. “Details are still being decided, but the park will most likely include a meditation/prayer garden, picnic area, and a historical marker explaining the family’s rich history, including their military service.”
Their service includes that of Sgt. Harry Lee Boles, killed in action 50 years ago in Vietnam.
“We will recognize this at the Nov. 11 Veterans Day ceremony. The Vietnam Monument Moving Wall will be in JF Gregory Nov. 7-11, so our ceremony will honor those who fought in Vietnam, as well as all other conflicts.