Irwin Sherman said she always wanted her son David to have a Christmas tree.
On an overcast Sunday afternoon at the back of Taylor Park, the Orange Rotary Club dedicated the third community memorial Christmas tree honoring David Sherman, who died in 1958 at the age of 7.
Since 1978, the tree has been illuminated the first Sunday in December, serving as a holiday memorial to those in the community who have passed on. Since 1985, the Rotary Club has maintained the tree and organized the annual service.
Over time, the initial tree planted grew too large for town public works employees to drape lights on it, and a new tree was planted. But that tree was dying and beyond saving.
This summer, the Rotary Club initiated an effort to replace both trees with a new Norway spruce, remove other dying or overgrown trees and shrubs surrounding the tree and plant a viable, visible memorial Christmas tree in time for the Dec. 8 illumination.
On Sunday, club members welcomed Sherman family and friends to the rededication.
Club president Jamie McConnell offered a brief history of the tree and the traditional order of the December service and painted a verbal picture of the annual event.
“For any president of this club, the lighting of the community memorial Christmas tree is probably the most personally rewarding role during the year; I know it was for me,” McConnell said. “In our little slice of Taylor Park the occasion brings together families and neighbors and sparks the spirit that the Christmas holiday season can bring. It is a joyous and solemn tradition that the club is very proud to carry on for years to come.”
Orange Mayor Martha Roby was unable to attend Sunday’s service, but shared her remarks with vice mayor Rick Sherman—a cousin of the tree’s honoree.
“Small towns are steeped in traditions,” he read from Roby’s remarks. “The traditions we develop and observe help bind our community together.
“Through the hard work of the Rotary Club and the Sherman family’s love of a family member, the community memorial tree—with its many white lights—will continue to add beauty to our town during the holiday and help remind everyone of the people who have been a part of our community and are no longer with us,” Sherman read. “I hope everyone will come and enjoy our tree and one of our many town traditions.”
In addition to planting a new tree—and providing for its maintenance and care—the club, working with the Dolley Madison Garden Club, the Town of Orange and Grelen Nursery, has removed other overgrown trees and shrubs, and opened up that portion of the park. Further landscaping of the site should be completed before the Dec. 8 lighting ceremony.
Sherman lauded the club for its efforts—particularly McConnell and president-elect Cal Ewing.
David Sherman’s sister Rebecca Ernouf said her father, Welford Sherman (a former Rotarian), would be very proud of the club’s current efforts to preserve the family’s legacy.
“When we went to New York, we saw all those trees on Park Avenue and they all were in memory of someone,” Irwin Sherman added. “David thought that was just so beautiful. This is a nice and fitting tribute. I wanted him always to have a Christmas tree.”
The Orange Rotary Club meets the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 8 a.m. at Country Cookin’ in Orange. For more information, email OrangeRotaryVa.firstname.lastname@example.org.