On January 7, 1944 former first Lady Lou Henry Hoover died. For several decades of her life she was active with the Girl Scouts of America, serving in many leadership positions ranging from Troop Leader to National President. To pay tribute to this dynamic lady, the Girl Scouts created Lou Henry Hoover Memorial Forest and Wildlife Sanctuaries, to serve as living tributes to her. After months of discussion, it was decided to designate areas across the country as Memorial Forest and Wildlife Sanctuaries. In October 1944, guidelines to set up these living memorials were created. The guidelines included establishing clear title and boundaries to the land, conducting a survey of plant and animal life, and creating a 10-year plan to improve the overall condition of the forest, soil, water, and wildlife of the sanctuary. Troops were encouraged to work closely with the local and federal land management agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and state level forest or agricultural departments.
The national Girl Scout leaders felt it important that the process would be a learning experience for the girls. The work required to set up a memorial would teach them about both nature and conservation, they would also learn more about Lou Henry Hoover and her work to grow the Girl Scouts of America.
The first memorial sanctuary, located in Dade County, Florida was dedicated in May 1945. Created by the Girl Scout Council of Dade County, the Lou Henry Hoover Memorial Forest and Bird Sanctuary included a Day Camp site. It was also the first tropical campsite for Girl Scouts.
In 1949, Girl Scouts in California who used the Azalea Trails Camp in the San Jacinto Mountains banded together to
create a Lou Henry Hoover Memorial Forest in an area that the San Jacinto Trail crossed. The girls also proposed a drinking fountain for hikers. They made a detailed study of the flowers and trees and proposed adding additional indigenous flora. Their plan was approved and on June 25, 1950 they dedicated a 630-acre tract of the San Bernardino National Forest.
In 1955, Girls Scouts in Potomac, Maryland established a 59-acre tract adjacent to the Girl Scout’s Camp Rockwood as a Lou Henry Memorial Forest and Wildlife Sanctuary. The dedication ceremony included the dedication of a Lou Henry Hoover Memorial Room at the manor house of Camp Rockwood.
By 1962, 24 sanctuaries were dedicated in places ranging from Morristown, New Jersey; Rockford, Illinois, to Spokane, Washington.
Other living memorial tributes to Mrs. Hoover were smaller, but no less heartfelt. On what would have been Mrs. Hoover’s 71st birthday on March 29, 1945, Girl Scouts in her longtime home of Palo Alto, California planted a magnolia tree in front of their Girl Scout headquarters building. The girls learned that the magnolia was Mrs. Hoover’s favorite tree and decided to plant one in her memory complete with a dedication ceremony. When former President Hoover received a letter from longtime family friend, Sue Dyer, about the ceremony, he was touched. He wrote in reply to Ms. Dyer, “That was a tender thing to do and I’m glad to know about it.”