October is conservation month and this time each year, Madison’s Garden Club and Woman’s club hold a joint meeting in order to honor and dedicate trees to members of the club who have passed during the year.
Conservation Committee Chair Princess Akerman of the Woman’s Club, shared with the large crowd how the tree dedication program came to pass. The program began in 1983 when Willie Clare Copeland visited a nurseryman in Monticello, who told Copeland there weren’t enough trees in Madison. Her solution to the nurseryman’s statement was tree dedications, which have now resulted in around 175 trees being planted and dedicated in the city of Madison. Copeland would be happy to know her own tree resides in Four Freedoms Park, just west of the gazebo, and has a special recognition no other tree has; a foot marker placed at the foot of the tree, bearing her name.
During the joint meeting, family and friends were guests of the clubs, there to speak about their loved ones. The first member to be honored was Mildred Smith-Bruner who had been a member of both the Woman’s Club and Garden Club. Sister-in-law Jo Willis spoke of Smith-Bruner’s passing at the age of 98 and how Bruner had seen changes that took her from a horse-drawn buggy and classroom, that was heated with a woodstove, to email, Facebook and Twitter; but said it was Bruner’s devotion and commitment to her students (both in school and church) and her community service within Madison that will keep her in everyone’s hearts and minds.
Peggy Lanier-Hinson was honored by her granddaughter Amanda Gillean who spoke of Lanier-Hinson’s humor, creating laughter from the audience when she relayed a story of her younger grandmother releasing a white oak snake from her shirt in church as a way to see if everyone really closed their eyes during prayer. Gillean said she was amused by and questioned Hinson being a past Garden Club president and admitted to the club members, “I never saw her keep any kind of flower alive.” Although there was a lot of humor from Gillean, there was also a great deal of emotion and love as she spoke to the group about her grandmother.
Kathy Sale was at the meeting to honor good friend and previous fellow librarian Lu Lyles-Sands, whom she called “the quintessential southern lady.” Sale told the crowd this former Woman’s Club president was “refined, well-spoken, smart and capable.” Sale painted a picture of Lyles-Sands with her words when speaking of Sands’ love of the written word, a believer of thank you notes, homemade scones and turn-of-the-century home, complete with art, period-piece furniture, antique linens and silver service. Sands herself was an artist and Sale said her friend’s most fulfilling work was accomplished as an artist and had traveled the country seeking inspiration for her work.
Garden and Woman’s Club member Walteria Wooten-Schnitker was honored by son Clay and daughter-in-law Kay, who told the audience it might seem strange she was doing the speaking instead of her husband, but used it as an example of just how special of a lady Wooten-Schnitker was. Kay was able to point to many people in the room who was related to or very close to her mother-in-law and said, “she was well known and loved by many,” with members of the audience giving audible agreement. Wooten-Schnitker was described as attending her family well and being a “good light to follow.”
Virginia Boyd-Cherry’s daughter JoAnn Whitfield and daughter-in-law Gladney Cherry were present to honor their mother and mother-in-law, but it was her friend Betty Williams from the Garden and Woman’s Clubs that honored Boyd-Cherry with words. Williams said Cherry loved her family, her church and the family business ‘Cherry Farms.’ Cherry, whose father was a past Minister at Lee Methodist Church, still attended there and used to be the oldest member of the church. Williams said Cherry was very active, helping people and always working to make Lee a better place.
After the meeting adjourned, family and friends, along with several members of both clubs, gathered at Four Freedoms Park to dedicate trees to the five honorees. Each tree was prayed over by Woman’s Club president Ethel Barefoot, who dedicated the trees to the honored women, praying for healthy growth for the trees and peace for the family members and friends present. At the end of the ceremony, people who loved them honored five great women, no longer with us, and Four Freedoms Park gained five more trees in Willie Clare Copeland’s tree dedication program.