Colonial Heights celebrates Arbor Day
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Apr 29, 2014, 13:04
BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Kindergarten students from North Elementary School sang spring-themed songs at Colonial Heights’s Tenth Arbor Day celebration on Friday.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — With the thrust of a shovel, Ben Shaw poured soil over the fresh roots of a young tree by the War Memorial in Colonial Heights, celebrating the city’s 10th Arbor Day by planting new life in memory of his mother, Elvira.
On a sunshine sprinkled Friday morning, residents from the Colonial Heights community gathered to take part in the city’s celebration of Arbor Day, and Ben, along with his wife Nancy, took part in the environmental holiday by donating a “Winter King” Southern Hawthorn tree to the city.
Although Elvira did not live to see the opening of the new courthouse, Ben said the tree’s placement directly across the street from the building is an everlasting symbol of her presence.
“She would be happy knowing that this tree is overlooking the courthouse and making sure she keeps an eye on things,” Ben said.
Elvira grounded herself in the community, living in a house on Prestwood Drive for more than 50 years, a house that Ben moved into when he was two years old in 1957.
Ben said that he tried to convince his mother on multiple occasions to relocate from Colonial Heights to Richmond so that they could live closer together, and always received a confident “no” in response, solidifying for steadfast loyalty to the city.
“Colonial Heights was her home. She loved it here. She loved the people here. She loved trying to make Colonial Heights a city of good deed,” Ben said.
Elvira served as the secretary of the Colonial Heights Electoral Board for 50 years in addition to serving numerous other roles for various organizations, and passed away at the age of 93 on Oct. 3, 2013.
“[She] was an amazing woman and she set a great example for all of us,” Elaine Kollman, the Beautification Committee chairperson, said of Elvira’s ceaseless commitment to Colonial Heights. “The city and the surrounding area is a better place because of [her].”
Mayor C. Scott Davis said that he wore purple on Friday because he knew that Elvira loved the color, and that Arbor Day is not just about planting one tree, but also perpetuating a message of conservation and environmental awareness.
Mayor C. Scott Davis shook Ben Shaw’s hand, thanking him for his donation of a tree to the city in memory of his mother, Elvira Shaw.
“[I] urge all citizens to celebrate this special day by committing themselves to conserve and plant trees for their own benefit and for the benefit of future generations,” Davis said.
Superintendent Joseph Cox Jr. spoke at the celebration, and he stressed the historical importance of J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaper editor, who advocated the mass planting of trees in the Nebraska Territory and established the first Arbor Day in the United States on April 10, 1872.
Having spent time in the Mojave Desert, a location devoid of visually appealing vegetation, Cox said that some people take for granted the beauty in the nature that surrounds them.
“One of the things that you really appreciate, as I have, when you get to come back to the East Coast ... is what we have here. And I think Sterling Morton probably recognized the same thing when he went to Nebraska. He probably tried to create something as close as he could to that,” Cox said, underlining Morton’s years growing up and living in the East before relocating to Nebraska.
The “Winter King” Southern Hawthorn tree is native to North America, growing up to 20-30 feet tall with silver-grey bark and dense, thorny branches.
Kindergarten students from North Elementary School performed a choral presentation and recited a poem during the ceremony, which was directed by Kim Hamilton.
Pam Comstock, the president of the Colonial Heights Chamber of Commerce, also spoke during the ceremony.
The Swift Creek Women’s Club provided food and refreshments for the Arbor Day celebration.