by Jennifer Hammerberg, SAEF President
On a cool October afternoon, former superintendent and founding member of the Stockbridge Area Educational Foundation Bruce Brown planted three young trees on the grounds around Smith Elementary and Heritage School.
In August at Brown’s last school board meeting as interim superintendent, the Stockbridge Area Educational Foundation pledged to have a tree of Brown’s choice planted in his honor. The tree was in thanks for his continuous support of the Stockbridge School District and the foundation. Brown served as superintendent when the foundation was created until his retirement in 2013. He came back in 2017-19 to serve an additional term as a regular board member.
Consistent with his strong work ethic and not a person to shy away from getting his hands dirty, Brown declined to have the tree planted, preferring to do it himself! With the cost savings, the amount budgeted to provide the tree allowed Brown to choose three trees instead of one. He selected a beautiful northern pin oak, a white pine and a red horse chestnut.
Brown is an avid outdoor enthusiast and has a keen interest in trees and the fauna of our area. When asked why he selected those three types of trees, he explained that “the community committee that originally helped design Heritage and Smith wanted tree plantings to create a ‘park like’ campus using native deciduous tree species.”
“When you walk the grounds you see oak, maple, linden, sycamore, yellow poplar and beech,” he proudly states. “Bradford pear, dogwood, and (the new) chestnut are planted near the entrances at Heritage and Smith for their spring blossoms. A gingko was planted just because it is a curious species.”
Looking around the grounds he reminisces about other trees planted over the years. “The large conifer growing near the Heritage flagpole was a gift from long-serving Stockbridge School principal, Bob Roberts. The spacing of the trees between Smith and Heritage was dictated by the length of the hose.”
Brown described using multiple hoses, linked together, deliberately leaving the connections loose, creating his own drip irrigation system to feed the first batch of trees planted. Brown laments that it has been a challenge to keep the trees alive and growing on the grounds and thinks there is room for even more!
On why he chose the specific trees he did this time, Brown said, “A chestnut was chosen because, we think, there are only two others in Stockbridge, one at Smith and the other across from the old middle school on Elizabeth. Also, the tree offers very dramatic red flowers in the spring. The chestnut blooms at a different time than the other flowering trees that grow near the entrance, extending the time to enjoy trees in blossom each spring.”
He added that the white pine he planted is a replacement tree, so a specimen of the Michigan State Tree remains on the Heritage campus. The third tree, planted on the playground near the soccer field, is a variety of Quercus commonly known as a northern pin oak. The oak also was a replacement tree, and in time will provide playground shade along with the natural beauty that is a tree.
Serendipitously, the planting of the oak tree coincided with recess for a group of Heritage students. Brown invited them to help water the trees and they were overjoyed to be included! Additional assistance was provided by SAEF Vice President Ralph Schumacher and new Superintendent Brian Friddle.
As these trees grow, it is our sincere hope that they will inspire and remind people to continue to grow in all ways; with knowledge and appreciation of the education provided in our wonderful community by the hardworking people who make it happen. Maybe they also can find a way to become part of “A Legacy of Learning” the way Mr. Bruce Wm. Brown has. Thank you, Bruce, for all you have done for this community!