This month - The Life Grows On program makes remembering a loved one a healing experience that beautifies the town.
Life Grows On by Ellis Anderson
When loved ones pass away, memorials to them are generally made of granite.Or perhaps bronze plaques bear their names.Or a brick in a community project continues to bear witness to the impact of their lives.
Now, in Bay St. Louis, there’s another kind of memorial, the living, growing kind – a tree.Planted along public right of ways, these gracious memorials offer a lush oasis for the eye.And as the trees grow through the years, so does the appreciation of those passing by.
The Life Grows On program was launched in the fall of 2012, when a few trees were donated by a single individual in the name of a family member who had died.Katharine Truett Ohman (who is this month’s Good Neighbor) teamed up with the Bay St. Louis Beautification Division and the Hancock Community Development Foundation to create a program that would make similar donations available to others.
Katharine, who used to own a landscaping business, used her connections with nursery owners, to obtain trees for the project at close to wholesale cost, making them exceptionally affordable.For only a $25 donation, a tree will be purchased and planted in the honor of a loved family member or friend.Ohman says it’s easy to do – simply call Sally Isaacs at the Hancock Chamber at 228.467.9048 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org (a downloadable PDF of the application is also in the sidebar).
All the trees will be planted along public right-aways to be enjoyed by everyone in the community, as well as visitors to the coast.So far, more than 100 trees have been planted as part of the program, most along the Bay St. Louis gateway corridor of Highway 90.
BSL Beautification representatives, Quinton Oldfather and 'Cricket', planted 17 Natchez Crape Myrtles on 12/02/2014 along the BSL Hwy 90 corridor as part of the LGO Memorial Tree Planting program.
Tree planting along Hwy 90, Harold Ziegler, BSL Beautification Division
While most people have never thought of the venerable highway crowded with with a hodgepodge of buildings and signs as a scenic route, Ohman is working to change that.Trees from Life Grows On, along with trees acquired from other grants and programs since Katrina, are already making a significant impact on the stretch of the highway between the bridge and DeMontluzin Street.The statement the trees make is clear: This is a place that supports beauty and growth and peace of mind.
Ohman has a Masters degree in psychology, and that influences even her landscaping design.Although the type of trees that will be planted will vary based on availability, most of the trees she acquiring now are white crape myrtles.
“The foundational trees along the highways are evergreen, with oaks and magnolias, to create a relaxing background,” says Ohman.“The blossoms of the crape myrtles act as a counterpoint and add color.We chose white because it makes you feel cooler during the summers, which is their blooming season.”
Ohman also knows from experience how associating a tree with a person who’s passed can be healing. When her father passed away, she was only fifteen years old and she struggled with the loss.At that time, in the 1970’s, the state of Mississippi was planting magnolias along the side of the interstate.Seeing those new trees being planted helped her begin to heal.Even now, when she sees magnolias along the interstate, it triggers warm thoughts of her father.
To date, most Life Grows On program trees have mostly been planted in Bay St. Louis, with four slated for Waveland and two for Clermont Harbor.While donors can’t specify the type of tree that will be planted, they can request a certain public area and Ohman’s crew will consider the location and see if it meets the planting requirements.
In the Community Garden on Keller Street in Bay St. Louis (across from the Senior Citizen’s Center), a large sign bears the painting of a tree.Each time a tree is planted as part of the Life Grows On program, a leaf is added to the tree, bearing the name of the person being remembered.As that tree “grows” leaves, the community roadways will transform into things of beauty - and of healing.
Names of those who have been memorialized in the Life Grows On program
Ellen Hoffman George DiBenedetto Elmer Sagar Townsley St. Paul Clyde C. Richardson Beryl B. Murtagh Kenwood Family Harold & Elisabeth Ott Ellen Kane Anne N. Umberger Cliff Dornan Joe Carriere Mildred O’Farrell Usher Savard Lynda Scardino Williams Edmond Fahey III Penny Herring Treutel John Moon Betty Benvenutti Nikara Duvernay Richard Mark Wagner Wilson Burton Walter Chamberlain Gerald Gex Jim McDonald Florence McKay Margaret Hadden Connie West Rebekah Kennedy Anne Garms Elizabeth Benvenutti Mary Alice Benvenutti Christian Turlan Longo
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