Magazine article American Forests

Scout Restores Living Memorial

Magazine article American Forests

Scout Restores Living Memorial

Article excerpt

Oaks in Tuscaloosa honor local men who died in WWI.

To the residents of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the hefty oaks that line the town's University Boulevard are a familiar landmark. Until recently, however, most weren't aware of the trees' historical significance. With the help of donations and some volunteer manpower, 12-year-old Nicholas Kimbrough aims to change that.

The oaks were planted more than 80 years ago to commemorate men from Tuscaloosa County who died or were killed during World War I. "It's important to the town because those were the veterans that were from Tuscaloosa," Nicholas says. "It reminds them of who died and when they and what they gave up."

The project, one of many "living memorials" planted nationwide for the heroes of the Great War, was organized in 1920-21 by the local branch of American Legion Post 34. Small bronze plaques, now long gone, graced the base of each of 45 trees, each bearing a name and dedication to a veteran. There were a few rumblings over the years about restoring the memorial, but nothing materialized.

"Some of our biggest attributes are our wide, tree-lined avenues," says Betsy Hayslip, executive director of the Heritage Commission of Tuscaloosa County. "I was just thrilled to learn that these trees were intentionally planted for the dedication of these individuals."

Nicholas' dad Ray stumbled across the trees' importance in an area history book. He shared it with his son, and Nicholas seized upon the idea of restoring the memorial for his Eagle Scout project. "I like anything to do with World War I or World War II," he says, "so I thought this would be pretty cool."

Nicholas plans to replace each of the lost plaques with stone placards placed flush with the ground at the foot of each tree. Each stone will bear the name, rank, and company of the veteran associated with that tree. The seventh-grader also plans to replace any trees that have been removed over the years. …

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