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
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
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.