Garden Club Honors Late Sheriff Downing with a Magnolia Tree on Arbor Day

May 1, 2015



by Jay Hobson

What started as a tree planting for Arbor Day on an unseasonably cold and windy April day became an honor for late Sheriff Michael Downing as well.

Arbor Day is always the last Friday in April.  The ceremony is an annual event for the Salem Garden Club, which has been planting a tree at various sites around town on Arbor Day for over 50 years.

However, on April 24 this year at the Salem Senior Housing at Telfer Circle, the ceremony took a special turn.  Resident Marion Dickey saw the ceremony as she returned home from the Senior Center on Sally Sweets Way and asked if it was in honor of Sheriff Downing who died on April 17 of cancer.

Garden Club president Joanne Brown took an immediate vote of the several members present, and they voted to use the planting of the yellow magnolia to indeed honor Downing as well as remember Arbor Day.

It is customary for the ceremony to begin with the Pledge of Allegiance and then Garden Club member Linda LeMay gave a reading of the poem by Joyce Kilmer:



I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.


After the ceremony, Lake Street Garden Center’s owner Tim Wolfe planted pansies at the base of the yellow magnolia to give a splash of color against the dark mulch until the tree blooms.