On a beautiful Saturday morning – July 12, 2014 – the Class of 1974 dedicated a memorial tree on the grounds of the ACS elementary school in honor of their classmates who have passed away since graduation. The event was part of their 40th class reunion weekend. The reunion planning committee wanted to do something special for their lost classmates. Committee member, Linda Hickein Roberts, suggested they purchase a tree or bush to plant at the school. The suggestion was met with great enthusiasm and classmates donated money toward the purchase of a crab apple tree that was planted in the spring.
Family, friends, and classmates of those being honored attended the lovely ceremony on Saturday morning. The ceremony included reading a poem titled “Empty Chair” that speaks of an empty chair that represents a seat that will be maintained for lost classmates during gatherings and reunions. The symbolic empty chair and a table adorned with photos of the 1974 classmates being honored were displayed in front of the tree during the dedication. As each name was read, a bell was rung and a rose was handed out to a family member or friend who attended to represent each classmate.
Kim Wright Pritt gave the dedication speech:
“We are gathered here, today, to proudly dedicate this crab apple tree in honor of those whose names were read and of those fellow classmates who will join them at some point in future years. There were 16 names read, 16 rings of the bell – I am deeply saddened to know that we have lost so many from our class. These were not strangers who just happened to go to the same school as we did. We grew up with them….played childhood games with them….shared confidences with them…..made memories with them……went through the trials and tribulations of our teenage years…..and, yes, even got into a little trouble from time to time with them…they were our friends, our classmates, our buddies. While our hearts break for this chair, left empty as a token of our loss, we can now look to this tree to bring joy and beauty and hope for many, many years to come. “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted”, Matthew 5:4. As countless generations of students and Albion Central School staff and administrators walk through this courtyard and as we and others come to visit and look upon this tree, we will all surely find peace and comfort in knowing our dear friends will be remembered. They – we – will be remembered. This tree is dedicated to be a living, growing legacy for the Albion HS Class of 1974. Its beauty and strength will live on as a symbol of the bonds we shared with our friends who left us far too soon. Its branches, leaves, and blossoms will be a stunning reminder of friendships, laughter, and shared experiences throughout our youth and into our adulthood. On behalf of everyone present today and all of the classmates, friends, and family who could not be here, I dedicate this crab apple tree in honor of the Class of 1974 and, in particular, in honor of these 16 friends.”
The sixteen classmates who were honored
Becky Allen Prophet stands by the crab apple tree, memorial table, and symbolic empty chair
The memorial table
Nancy Weits Horth reads the “Empty Chair” poem
Pam Navarra Lusk reads the names as Nancy Weits Horth rings a bell for each name
Family, friends, and classmates listen as the names are read and the tree is dedicated
Kim Wright Pritt and Al Capurso (’71) sing the Beatles’ song, “In My Life”
This poem was read during the ceremony to describe the symbolic empty chair
Please visit this tree and think of those who were honored and the class of 1974.
Post and photos by Kim Wright Pritt