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Nancy Boyd died in plane crash in 1963 while in service to the Peace Corps. A 50th anniversary remembrance will be held at noon Saturday, March 2, at Nancy Boyd Memorial Park in Martinez.

On March 1, 1961, President John F Kennedy signed Executive Order 1924 and the Peace Corps was established. On Sept. 22, 1961, the Peace Corps was authorized by Congress with its first director, Sargent Shriver. Now, the Peace Corps is an independent federal agency.

One year before the Peace Corps was formed, a young woman by the name of Nancy Boyd graduated from Alhambra High School. While in high school she was a "basketball sweetheart," editor of the Torch (yearbook) and sat on the Student Council. Her bright red hair made her easy to pick out in a crowd. After graduation, Nancy went on to attend DVC and UC Santa Barbara.

Instead of pursing a degree, Nancy had another calling. She wanted to serve her country helping others who were less fortunate, so she joined the newly formed Peace Corps.

Nancy trained for five months at San Jose State and then in September 1962, she was sent to the Philippine town of Mabini in Davao Province on the island of Mindanao. She taught English and science to the children of the area.

In March 1963, she was killed in an airplane crash on the slopes of Mount Apo.

Nancy was so loved by her friends and family that the Martinez community dedicated a brand new park in her honor -- Nancy Boyd Memorial Park. The park was dedicated on Veterans Day in 1964 by a host of dignitaries, friends, family and members of the community.

On hand were Congressman John Baldwin, Mayor Harold DeFraga, Ernest Lasall, Thomas McGowan, Gilbert Travers, Jack Davi, the Martinez Municipal Band, members of the Sea Scout Ship Albatross, and representatives of the Peace Corps and the Philippine government.

In an article published in the Contra Costa Gazette on Nov. 6, 1964, it was reported, "The Nancy Boyd Memorial Park will be a six-acre park fronting Church Street at the corner of Pleasant Hill Road East. The fire station will be on the opposite side of Church Street.

"Included in the park will be facilities for small children, older children and youth. There will be picnic tables, playgrounds, restrooms and many trees. The highlight of the park will be the International Peace Corps Fountain which will be near the parking lot. The fountain will be erected with funds from contributions of the people and organizations of the City of Martinez."

The fountain was built by Ralph Swanson and Richard Haisley, and contains personally selected stones shipped from every country where the Peace Corps has volunteers.

The cornerstone comes from the people of the Philippines in appreciation of Nancy Boyd's service and sacrifice. Unfortunately, the fountain fell into disrepair many years ago and is now a planter box. Although it is a lovely memorial as a planter box, I would like to see the Martinez community come together and return the water to the memorial.

Today, Nancy Boyd Memorial Park is a thriving outdoor area that is used by hundreds of people daily. Substantial upgrades have been made over the past few years with new bathrooms, a community room, new fields and resurfaced and upgraded tennis courts. More improvements will be made over the next year.

To honor the life and service of Nancy, as well as other Martinez residents who served their country, a celebration will be held at noon Saturday, March 2, at Nancy Boyd Memorial Park.

Many of Nancy's childhood friends and fellow Peace Corps volunteers will gather in her honor. The entire community is invited. I hope to see you there.

Schroder is the mayor of Martinez. Email him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.