At the southeast corner of Haddon Avenue and Kings Highway, directly in front of the Starbucks, a magnificent Platanus Occidentalis or “American Sycamore” once stood.
Thanks to the borough, the Shade Tree Commission, as well as American Legion Post 38, there stands another, smaller version of the same tree, whose existence carries a solemn purpose.
On Memorial Day, following the completion of the borough’s annual parade and commemoration of war dead at Haddonfield Memorial High School, Commissioner John Moscatelli and Post member Bill Polise officially dedicated the arboreal addition to honor American war dead.
“When I was with the STC, I was one of the group who said, ‘hey, let’s do this,’ because people here really wanted to dedicate trees. I was part of the team that put together the program and then aired it (to the public) so I knew when I saw a big orange X (on the original sycamore), I thought that tree’s gonna go,” Polise revealed.
“I had since left the commission, but I high-tailed it over there and asked if they had opened the spot yet, and they said no. I ended up talking to the Post and I said ‘this is an opportunity, this is probably the best piece of real estate in Haddonfield, I think it would be best if we took advantage of it,’ and they agreed. We put the money forward, and dedicated it in the name of those who have fallen in service for the United States.”
According to the borough website, under normal circumstances, a minimum donation of $1,000 is requested to establish a dedicated tree, which aims to cover the cost of acquiring the tree, creation and placement of a commemorative plaque, as well as planting and maintenance costs for up to three years.
Tree types and planting sites are selected by the Shade Tree Commission in consultation with the Department of Public Works. All dedication sites are provided on a first-come, first-served basis, based on a completed application, including payment, per the site.
Donors may request an engraved brass plaque through the Commission. All approved plaques are approximately five inches by eight inches and includes commemorative wording, as well as the tree’s scientific and common names.
On the dedication occurring during the 100th anniversary of the Legion, Polise added, succinctly, “It’s serendipity, absolutely.”
In part of his remarks during the dedication, Moscatelli said, “It is fitting that we, as free and prosperous people collectively, continue to remember the sacrifices of those who have served, and in doing so, gave their lives. Pericles, an ancient Athenian general and statesman, was among the first leaders to pay posthumous tribute to soldiers by delivering a funeral oration praising the sacrifice and valor of those killed in the Peloponnesian War.”
Poppies, those small red flowers forever memorialized within the John McCrae poem “In Flanders Fields,” were spread generously around the base of the new tree. Moscatelli urged those in attendance to remove one from the ground and keep it as a remembrance of those who gave what Abraham Lincoln stated in his Gettysburg Address, as “the last full measure of devotion.”
“On this 27th day of May we solemnly and collectively remember the sacrifices of our fallen U.S. military with this tree and this plaque,” Moscatelli added.
Following the dedication, thanks to anonymous donors, those who watched the ceremony or who were simply hanging out along Kings Highway after the parade, were treated to complimentary ice cream, hot dogs and drinks.
“Today, we are grateful to the Borough of Haddonfield, its employees, elected officials, volunteers and especially dear to us, our tree advocates who are here en masse. We humbly request, going forward, that, as you walk past this location and enjoy the downtown area, to take just a half-second to remember those who did not come back from serving our nation,” Polise concluded.