Arbor Day - April 25, 2014
by Jim Gerrish

In 2010, while taking care of the 1963 Senior Citizen's Garden in front of the Post Office, I "discovered" another monument on the same block behind City Hall at the corner of North Arlington Avenue and New Street, opposite Cicely Tyson Elementary School. The monument shown above is called The Centennial Tree, and contains a marker dedicated to Clara Maass. The inscription reads: "This Centennial Tree is dedicated to Nurse Clara Louise Maass, born in East Orange June 28, 1876 - died August 14, 1901. She gave her life in the experiment conducted in Cuba which uncovered the cause of Yellow Fever and saved countless lives. Dedicated this 23rd day of November, 1963 by Centennial Tree Committee. Elizabeth O. Butterfield, Chairman, Mayor James W. Kelly, Jr Honorary Chairman, George E. Stringfellow, General Chairman."

The above photo shows the full beauty of the old Centennial Tree in 2010, but it was in need of some pruning in the upper branches. The trunk of the tree had been a favorite place to carve initials and love messages over the years.

I visited and cleaned the site a few more times in 2010, but then I was no longer able to continue and stopped going over to the city hall area for two years. Then on 11/4/2012 I had some sad news to report. My old friend, the Centennial tree, was gone. Apparently the blight in its upper branches (see 2010 photos above) was too much for it, and some time between 2010 and 2012, down it came.

This year, in order to celebrate Arbor Day, I set aside some money to purchase a Northern Red Oak, the state tree of New Jersey, which I offered to donate to the City of East Orange as a replacement for the missing Centennial Tree. I made the offer on April 1st. The last word I heard from "East Orange City Hall" was, " Thank you for the donation offer. We are looking into the centennial tree issue." That was on April 4th.

On April 18th, I notified City Hall that the Red Oak tree had arrived at my house from the nursery and I needed to know what their decision was. After hearing nothing further, I notified the Mayor's Office of Constituent Services on 4/24/14 at 9:30 PM that since I had received no response, I assumed that they decided to decline my donation offer.

Today, Arbor Day, 4/25/14, I planted the rejected Red Oak Tree in my back yard, where it will provide acorns for many happy squirrels, blue jays and woodpeckers in my neighborhood for years to come. Happy Arbor Day, East Orange! The area behind the tree will be planted with berry bushes and lots of bright perennial cone flowers. I may not live long enough to see my Red Oak grow into the tree of my dreams, but I will enjoy watching it as long as the time I have left on this planet.

Click HERE to see the Centennial Tree, 2013

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