We are excited to announce the winners of our first-ever Trees of Philly Story Contest! The contest garnered close to 120 stories from tree huggers across the city.
Although each story submitted made it clear that Philadelphia is a city of tree lovers, Gail Parker’s story about her tree “Margy,” named in honor of her late cousin, was selected as the contest winner. Parker will receive nearly $300 worth of gardening supplies donated by Primex Garden Center in Glenside.
Second place went to Laura Jamieson’s story about her family’s plum tree, and honorable mentions went to Katharine Novak, Leslie Willis-Lowry, and Dr. Don Stoltz. All winners and honorable mentions will receive prizes donated by Primex and Yards Brewery Company. Check out all the winning stories and photos below!
WINNER: Margy the Red Bud, by Gail Parker
Many years ago a friend of mine had a red bud tree in her yard. I had never seen one before but was impressed with its beautiful flowers and black bark. I hoped someday to own one. Imagine my delight when my husband and I won a tree from your program and discovered one of the choices was a red bud! About the same time we went to pick up our tree, my very special second cousin died. Her nickname was Margy (hard g) so I told my husband we should name the tree after her. I put a little memorial bench at the base that has a nice verse of remembrance on it. The pictures are from last May when our “Margy” bloomed. You know the neat part about red buds is they have these branches that gently grab you as you walk by the tree. Or, maybe, it is just the spirit of the lady for whom I named my red bud letting me know she approves of my naming a tree for her and that she is thinking of me? Thank you so much for this beautiful tree.
2nd Place: Ned the Plum Tree, by Laura Jamieson
There was an old plum tree in our side-yard. My seven-year-old daughter loved its pink blossoms in the spring. My eight-year-old son searched for bugs caught in the hardened sap dripping down the aging trunk. Together they climbed it and gathered fruit and flowers to make and decorate “fairy houses.” They even named it–Ned. When the time came for old Ned to be cut down, both children were very upset. My daughter wrote a eulogy to the tree and placed it on the step “where Ned could read it:” “Dear Ned, You have given me something that no other tree has given to me. You are special to me. Love, Sylvia.” The tree care company crew were so touched by the note that they cut two cross-sections out of the truck and gave one to each child. The kids busily sanded and stained their pieces of “Ned,” admiring his rings and celebrate every year of Ned’s long life. They are helping to pick out a new “baby tree” to take Ned’s space in the yard, if not the space in their hearts.
Honorable Mention: A Memorial Tree for Songha, by Leslie Willis-Lowry
This tree is a living monument planted in memory of my beloved son, Songha Thomas Willis (May 2, 1972—February 2, 2000), who was robbed and murdered by 2 young men ages 16 and 17. Songha’s life was cut short by senseless violence; an incomprehensible slaying committed with thoughtless cowardice.
To lose someone like Songha, a nonviolent person who contributed positively to society, was a tragedy. He was a beautiful young man with exceptional prospects, a respected leader and gracious in everything he did, primarily because of his integrity and sincere concern for others. To his friends he was a real day brightener, and to his family he was fair as a star when only one is shining in the sky.
Among the healing flood of letters that followed Songha’s death was one carrying this quote from Jed Wolfington, a former classmate at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, VA. “Songha was a natural leader, trustworthy, considerate and engaging. It didn’t matter who you were or what you did; he always treated you with respect, with decency and an open heart. His death was premature, unjust and saddening, and leaves me with a sense of potential unfulfilled. But then I think of his spiritual understanding, how he could look past the labels of ethnicity, nationality and social status, and see that we are first and foremost human beings, one and all. Songha achieved in 27 years what it takes some a lifetime to achieve…he was a loving human being.”
Honorable Mention: My Willow Tree, by Dr. Dan Stoltz
By the pond in the park, near the old willow tree,
silhouetted in the dim morning light
Sat a little old woman with an easel and board,
painting a wonderful sight
And as I moved closer to admire her art,
full of envy and sheer fascination
I was suddenly struck with a puzzling flaw,
in the midst of her vibrant creation
I looked at her picture, then the dried up old pond,
and I looked at the broken down tree
And I realized at once that she saw what I saw,
but painted what she wanted to see
Her colors were vivid, the scene was alive,
the sun was golden and warm
Children were playing, there were boats on the pond
and the great tree shaded the lawn
And as I stood quietly watching her hand
as she hung a swing from the tree
She turned from her work and said with a smile,
“What a fine place this used to be
When I was a girl I would sail on this pond
and picnic and play on this lawn
We’d swing on this tree my lover and me,
ah- but those days forever are gone
The pond is all dried, the flowers have died,
and just look at my poor willow tree
It once was the proudest spot in the park,
now it’s crippled and old just like me
But when people ask if I’m sorry or sad,
I will answer their question with- never!
For as long as I have my paints and my brush,
I will swing on my willow forever”
Honorable Mention: My Magnolia Tree, by Katharine Novak
I grew up in the residential section of a city which was not known for leaving room for trees; however, I was privileged enough to have a beautiful magnolia tree in my small backyard. Whenever I wanted to escape from the city life, I would climb into my beloved magnolia to read or write. My magnolia tree had a split where I could sit perfectly—it was low enough that I, a novice tree-climber, could hoist myself onto it and sit for hours. One year, my older sister was confined to a body cast from breaking her hip and leg. She had never appreciated our magnolia tree the same way that I had, but in this year, it became her solace when she was excommunicated from the rest of the world. She, an artist, would have our parents put her in the backyard all afternoon so that she could paint. Although her art was rarely based on our magnolia, just being in its vicinity gave her hope. When I left for college for the first time, I took one of my magnolia tree’s blooms with me. My first night of college—when I was beginning to feel upset about being far from home—I had my magnolia bloom to help me feel better about the distance. To this day, when I visit my parents back home, I always go and sit in the split in my magnolia for old time’s sake.