T.R.E.E.S. ‘A Living Memorial’ Dedication Service

Brad Lutz, Gord Brown, Barb Brown, Amanda Brown and Nicholas Brown place soil on one of the trees in remembrance of their family member Robert Lutz. (The Ridgetown Independent News Photo)

By Bird Bouchard
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Ridgetown Independent

The weather cooperated on Sept. 17, for families in the area to gather for the T.R.E.E.S. ‘A Living Memorial’ Dedication Service at the T.R.E.E.S. Memorial Forest on Marsh Street.

Family members, young and old, attended to reflect on the names of those family members who have had trees planted in their memory from Sept. 1, 2021 to Aug. 31, 2022.

The service began with a prelude by piper Ken Poole.

Nathan McKinlay then took the podium to welcome everyone to the service.

“It is our aspiration that this service of dedication will offer each and every one of you comfort, as we pause and think about the lives that have been lived,” began McKinlay. “Because someone dear to us has lived, a forest has begun to grow.”

McKinlay said they are confident those in attendance will see the service as not only a service of remembrance but also an affirmation of the future.

“It has been said that no one plants a tree for himself, but one plants trees for the generations that follow him. With that in mind, we thank you for participating in this service and in a project that has the potential to improve the quality of life in our community and help ensure our children’s future on this planet world,” said McKinlay.

He then gave a little history about the T.R.E.E.S. Forest.

“Every good work has to begin with an idea, and today we would like to acknowledge the late Doug Smith, who understood the problem of shrinking forestation and bird life,” said McKinlay. “He thought of a possible solution and presented it to the senior citizens of this town at their annual meeting in January 1988.”

McKinlay went on to thank his staff, everyone who participated in any way in the service held that day, those who started the T.R.E.E.S. Forest, and those who continue to maintain it.

“I’d also be remiss if I did not mention the involvement of Rob McKinlay and making all of these Memorial forests possible. Because of Rob’s efforts, 1000s of trees now grow across four tree parks,” he said.

McKinlay said Rob is one of the pioneers of the concept of the memorial forests and has spent countless hours putting these projects in motion and creating meaningful tree planting services for the families we are so honoured to serve.

He then continued with a little more history of the T.R.E.E.S. Park before handing the microphone over to Daniel Ouimette, who gave the devotional.

Ouimette shared memories of his early childhood. He shared memories of his first job cutting grass, his schooling, and his love for skateboarding.

“Growing up in Chatham-Kent has made me who I am today,” he said. “I tell these memories with pride. Because no matter the hurdle we face, we overcome, taking solace in knowing others know our pain and feel our grief for those we have lost. We overcome as a community. In the struggle, there is strength in coming together as a collective. There is a pride to be had here.”

Ouimette said the day strengthens the community and helps connect one another.

“Today is about remembering and honouring those special individuals who are no longer with us. We spend time with others who share that same feeling of loss. We are brothers and sisters of grief. We all know the pain of losing someone. But we are a community of resourcefulness of compassion and empathy. And we gathered to get together today as a family. Trees of claims such as center peace and world cultures, that has become one central symbol. It is the tree of life,” said Ouimette.

He then went on to explain the symbolism of the trees planted by families.

“Just like your brother, or sister, your aunt or uncle, your mother or father, your sibling, your child, or your friend that we remember today, all which are unique. All were loved, always in forever. So at this time, I ask that you listen to your hearts, take hold of your breathing, take hold of your loved ones, and bring them close as we focus on those wonderful memories and individuals that we came to honour today,” said Ouimette.

McKinlay then read the names for whom the trees were to be planted that day and all those with a tree dedicated to them. He then asked the families in attendance to help plant three trees in the forest to remember their loved ones.

“Today, we plant three trees together,” continued McKinlay. “The names of those lives represented in this forest are listed in the memorial book on display at the funeral homes.”

Approximately 2,500 trees have been purchased for planting in this memorial forest since its beginning. A permanent register is prominently located in the foyer of the McKinlay Funeral Home in Ridgetown with all the names a tree has been dedicated for.



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