Durham Garden Club Beautifying the Town

Two major projects were completed this spring as the organization prepares to celebrate its 80th anniversary.


The Durham Garden Club, as it approaches its 80th Anniversary, completed two major beautification projects this Spring. The Tree Maintenance Committee planted eight maple trees on Pickett Lane and at the Durham Public Library in April and the Civic Beautification Committee just completed re-furbishing the triangular garden at Rtes 17 and 79.

The tree planting was done with major help from the town Public Works Dept. and with contributions from the families, whose loved ones are memorialized.

The family of Howard F. Kelley contributed to the planting of a tree on Pickett Lane, at the entrance to the Regional District #13 schools complex, where Kelley served as the first Superintendent and was instrumental in implementing the first alternative education classroom on the east coast. The family of Peter T. Heyl, funded a maple tree at the complex, where his widow, Etzie Heyl served as the chairwoman of the Regional District #13 Board of Education. The Heyl and Kelley children attended District #13 schools.

A third maple tree was planted at Pickett Lane in honor of Jessica and Aley Schoonmaker through a contribution from their parents Dr. Raymond and Judy Schoonmaker. Jessica and Aley attended District #13 schools and went on to college, careers, marriage and motherhood. The fourth tree at the complex, which includes three schools and the district sports fields, was dedicated to “Our Youth, Our Future.”

At the Durham Public Library, a maple tree was planted in memory of Earl and Marjorie Mathewson, the founders of Durham Manufacturing Co., whose policy of hiring town residents continues today. A second tree was planted in memory of Edward “Ned” Hinman, a career veteran, who, in his retirement, was an active participant in town government. 

The third maple at the Library honors Dorothy Willett and the late Dr. Leo Willett, Jr. Dorothy Willett was the chairman of the two building committees for the construction of both additions to the library and Dr. Leo Willett served as the town’s Health Director for many years. The fourth tree at the Library is dedicated to the Public Works Department whose help in the project allowed the club to purchase and plant more trees than originally planned. Kerrie Flanagan, Renee Kelley, Etzie Heyl and Bonnie Penders of the club’s tree maintenance committee organized the tree planting project.

The triangle garden was planted originally as part of the club’s 60th Anniversary, but nature and time changes gardens. The Civic Beautification Committee, which also maintains the Town Hall garden and window boxes, began the refurbishing by removing the barberry, a common landscaping plant that has been found to be invasive. They then removed the laurels, which had become overgrown and leggy, and saved the other plants that were re-useable.

The new plan, created by Master Gardener Bonnie Penders and former Club President Lynn Stanwood, has all-season interest. Committee member Emily Newton envisioned a farm-related centerpiece highlighting Durham’s history and present-day involvement with agriculture and secured a potato harvester from the Herzig Farm. Charlie Newton, Emily’s son, restored it and devised a way to secure it in place among the Knockout Roses, Dwarf Mugo Pines, and other colorful perennial plantings. Member Greg Burritt removed all the old material and helped with the new planting as did Civic Beautification Chair Marianne Reynolds and Maria Nilson. Flo Flynn and Ona McLaughlin were involved in the planning of the project.

The project is ongoing and plantings will be added as the seasons change. The club hopes that motorists will enjoy the garden as they enter town from Rtes 17, 77 & 79.

The club is busy planning a series of events for 2013, when members will invite the community to join them in celebrating 80 years of town beautification.


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