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Published: Wednesday, 4/24/2013

City honors wish of grieving grandmother to plant a tree

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It has been more than a year since Dale Chapman lost her grandson in Afghanistan to an improvised explosive device.

“He was in the Army. He was a staff sergeant,” Mrs. Chapman said, “We are still grieving and will be for many years.”

Looking for a way to honor the memory of Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Brown, 26, Mrs. Chapman searched for a spot to plant a tree. With no room outside her West Toledo home, she turned to the city of Toledo for help.

“Since they had taken out the trees on Parkside Boulevard, I thought I could plant a tree out there but I knew I couldn't go out and start digging a hole,” she said.

Dennis Garvin, commissioner of the Division of Parks, Recreation & Forestry, took the request and expanded it to a grove of trees to honor all Toledoans killed while in the military. Fifty cherry trees will be planted Friday on Parkside between Dorr Street and Mt. Vernon Boulevard.

“I thought we could do something as a tribute to the fallen heroes from Toledo,” Mr. Garvin said. “The idea came from [Mrs. Chapman] who called last summer who wanted to know if we could plant a tree in memory of her grandson, and after thinking about it, I thought we could dedicate a whole grove of trees.”

The result this Friday is more than Mrs. Chapman hoped for.

“I think it's a great idea,” she said.

The cherry trees will replace ones cleared by utility work.

Mr. Garvin said the families of three military members killed overseas — two in Vietnam and Mrs. Chapman — will participate in a ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday, but he is looking for more before the plantings.

Those who wish to participate are asked to provide information about the veteran to be memorialized. Information is available on the city's Web site, www.toledo.oh.gov or by contacting the city parks, recreation, and forestry division at 419-245-3357.

“We will include them in the proclamation for those who register,” Mr. Garvin said. “I wanted something that is not currently planted on Parkside so the cherry tree's white blossoms are going to really make a strong showing.”

Sergeant Brown, who was born in Toledo but lived in Columbus, was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. He died on April 3, 2012, in Khas Kunar district, Kunar province, Afghanistan. It was his fourth overseas tour.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 416-726-6171.



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