BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield High School heralded the second year of life for the copper beech tree on its front lawn with a ceremony Monday on May 6, 100 years to the date of its planting. About 60 people were in attendance.
Also commonly known as a purple beech and nicknamed “Big Red,” Schools Superintendent Sal Goncalves called the observation historical and the tree a symbol of success.
BHS Principal Chris Jennings said the tree had been planted to commemorate residents who had died in World War I. He framed the passage of time as a remembrance of “our lives in the context of her’s — the people that sat under her and walked by her.”
He thanked Bloomfield Councilman Richard Rockwell for bringing the history of the tree to his attention. He also thanked Bloomfield Board of Education member Thomas Heaney for helping to organize the event. Rockwell, who is a member of the Historical Society of Bloomfield, spoke.
“It’s important to remember historical moments,” he said.
The tree was planted by the Town Improvement Organization and occasioned a grand ceremony, Rockwell said. He recalled the planting by infusing his comments with quotes from The Independent Press reporting of the 1919 planting.
“As Mr. Jennings said, the tree was planted in memory of the boys who died in WWI,” Rockwell said. “There have been many wars since then.”
Quoting from the newspaper, he said the memorial tree will be a living testimonial and more fitting memorial than things made by human hands.
“It will carry its memorial message, not only to the present generation which mourns, but to the unborn generations to come which must be instructed and inspire,” he said.
According to The Independent Press reporting at the time, two trees were planted on the high school grounds at 11 a.m. on May 6. One was an oak in memory of “Col Theodore Roosevelt” and the other a purple beech for the young men who died in the war.
Roosevelt, the 16th American president, died Jan. 9, 1919, at the age of 60.
The event on Monday began with a performance by the BHS Marching Band. The Madrigals, the high school chorus, also sang. A century ago, the BHS Orchestra played in the auditorium. Heaney, a scoutmaster, brought a small contingent of Scouts. Scouts had also assisted at the original planting.
“Tradition never graduates,” Jennings said, a quote that is found on the plaque placed under “Big Red” to mark the event. Red, velvet swag was tied in a bow around its trunk. Jennings introduced the Revs. Ruth Boling, of the Church on the Green, and Joel Hubbard, of Park United Methodist Church, to give benedictions. In 1919, the Rev. B. F. Dickisson, of Park Methodist Church, gave the invocation.
Boling said the tree was a somber memorial for the past century.
“Let us pray it lives on as an emblem of peace,” she said.
In her prayer, she called the tree “a hope against the crisp skies of winter.”
“Let us not take its presence for granted,” she said, “and believe that we are a people rooted in the love of a community. Bless this tree and another century of growth.”
Hubbard gave his benediction beside tree.
“God, you brought forth life,” his voice boomed. “In stories of creation, there are gardens of wondrous trees. This tree is one of them. As we grow, thank you for the light, love and laughter.”
Jennings said the tree was planted by an organization as an inspiration to an unborn generation.
“We are that generation,” he said. “They would have us here to recall their purpose.”