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HomeHaddonfield NewsArbor Day planting celebrates late board president Sangillo

Arbor Day planting celebrates late board president Sangillo

Central Elementary tree replaces one felled by 2020 storms

Students at Central Elementary participate in the annual Arbor Day tree planting ceremony on April 29 with original tree-themed poems. (EMILY LIU/The Sun)

Haddonfield celebrated the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day at Central Elementary School last month with its first in-person tree-planting ceremony in two years.

After a long COVID pause, students, local officials and residents gathered early at the school’s playground to witness the planting of a little leaf linden: a tree that will someday grow 35 to 40 feet tall. 

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Shade Tree Commission Chair Scott McElhone said the last Arbor Day tree planting at the school was in 2017 on the other side of the playground, but the tree was split in two by windstorms two years ago. The little leaf linden, donated by the Central Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the Haddonfield Education Association, will serve as a replacement for that tree and also commemorate former board of education President Adam Sangillo, who died in November.

Last month’s ceremony included an original, tree-themed poetry reading by four students from Central, reflections on trees in the community and a remembrance of Sangillo.

“Today we’re here to celebrate life,” said Shannon Simkus, principal of Central Elementary. 

Simkus said the new tree will provide shade, oxygen and a habitat for wildlife as it grows with  students. Sangillo – a father of four – worked to ensure children had a place to grow academically, socially and emotionally.

 “(Sangillo) put students first, and in all of the decisions that he made, he always thought about you,” Simkus said, addressing the students. “ … This tree will be planted in his honor. It will link us to the past, when he was with us, and give us hope for the future of our students and our school district.”

Haddonfield Rotarian David Hunter recalled how Sangillo joined his group in 2009 and devoted much of his life to service.

“As individuals and as the community, we are all better for having had Adam Sangillo as a neighbor, as a friend, as a community leader and as Rotarian,” Hunter noted before students from Central helped cover the tree with dirt.

“Thank you Adam for everyone you gave us while with us, and for everything you left behind.”

Commissioner Frank Troy has dubbed 2022 “the year of the tree,” given the borough’s emphasis on removing dead and dying trees to prevent potential damage from the emerald ash borer. Haddonfield will also continue its efforts to replant trees: For each one taken down, it will be two to three years before another can be replanted in the same location, Troy explained.

About 85 trees will be planted around the borough this spring, with another 80 expected in the fall, numbers based on how many trees the Public Works Department can water in a day. 

“We’d like the public to know that the borough loves to plant trees on park strips, but we also encourage private planting on residents’ property,” said McElhone. “ … As trees sort of mature and age out of private property and are removed for hazardous reasons or construction, the town’s canopy has been pushed to this (trees planted on park strips), which is not really viable in the long term.”

Trees of any size help absorb water runoff and ease flooding, provide shade and reduce  carbon. To learn more, visit the Shade Tree Commission’s website at

This article was updated on May 13 to clarify that the tree was donated by the Central PTA and the Haddonfield Education Association.


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