They shared their first kiss at the end of the driveway for the home they would eventually own. She was a self-proclaimed “country bumpkin” and him, “a city boy.” They started dating at 12 and 13 during the 1940s. Their Mid-Ohio Valley love story grew from there. After moving away form the Mid-Ohio Valley, and finally returning, they began to raise a family. Always active members of their communities, everyone knew John and JoAnn Hefner, but to me they were always just Nan and Grandad.
My Nan and Grandad have always been synonymous with the word “love” for me, so when I began brainstorming the idea of the Love Lock Tree, it was always a natural fit to honor their lives and love with this project.
I had read about Love Lock Trees because many larger cities and other countries use them as a solution to heavy locks causing structural damage on old bridges. The Harmar Bridge in Marietta was suffering a similar fate. Many people love the locks, but many were rightfully concerned about the lasting damage heavy locks have on historic bridges.
So, I pitched my idea to Marietta Main Street President Sarah Arnold who talked with Executive Director Cristie Thomas. First, I’d like to say that these ladies are basically my community involvement spirit guides. They take ideas and they make stuff happen. Sarah suggested I write a grant to go before the Public Art Committee of Marietta Main Street. So I did.
For me, public art should be created by the community members who reside there. In my mind, I knew the tree would be metal and could withstand precarious weather while holding numerous locks. So, I turned to the most talented ironsmith and artist that I know of in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Zack Orcutt was eager to jump on board with the project. Within days, I received a manila envelope with several different detailed sketches about what he could create. I passed those on to Cristie and they became the visual foundation of the proposal.
After a few weeks, I found out that the Public Art Committee had decided to select the Love Lock Tree as a project they were willing to finance. I can’t fully explain the excitement of realizing something you thought was a good idea actually turns out to be a good idea through the validation of others.
Through Marietta Main Street’s tireless work, the Lock Tree is in the ground today. I had a small seed on paper and these doers, makers and activists planted an iron tree in the ground to intertwine its roots among the rest of historic Marietta.