Living gifts can be memorable forever

Mike Hennessey explains the beauty of living gifts and their long-lasting impact

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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

“These trees which he plants, and under whose shade he shall never sit, he loves them for themselves, and for the sake of his children and his children’s children, who are to sit beneath the shadow of their spreading boughs.” French theologian Hyacinths Loyson.

The spirit of the holiday season causes me to think about the joy that is possible from living gifts for others at any time of the year. November 12, 1996 is the birthdate of my daughter Corinne. One of the happiest days of my life. We had been expecting her for nine months and now here she was. I remember clearly that day doing the fall clean up at Atkinson Common when my beeper went off with the 911 and I jumped in the truck to go to the hospital.

Life was changing in our family and I wanted to mark Corinne’s birthday with something special that would commemorate this day forever.

I had been working at Atkinson Common for several years and was attempting to start a memorial tree planting program. What better way to remember a loved one than to plant a tree for someone’s memory. I took it a step further and decided that it would be great to plant an American Beech tree for Corinne’s memory growing up and for her to bring her friends, kids and grandkids to visit and sit under a majestic beech tree planted by her parents.

I remember the day we planted the tree. We brought Corinne in her basinet and she watched as I dug the hole for the tree and placed it in. We had our picture taken in front of it and the tree wasn’t much more than 6’ tall. As time went on Corinne grew and so did the tree. During Kids day in the Park at Atkinson Corinne would get her picture taken with her friends in front of “her” tree. I never thought much about it knowing that the tree was in a great spot and would be cared for by the Atkinson Common group in perpetuity.

When I took on the position as parks manager for the City of Newburyport I then realized just how large the tree had grown. Corinne was in college, time had passed. I just didn’t realize how quickly it had.

As word got around the Newburyport Tree Commission that I had planted a tree for my daughter 25 years earlier, they were interested in the story. Corinne and I had our pictures taken in front of the tree once more for a press release for the Tree Commission. Rather than Corinne being an infant or a teenager she was a beautiful young woman as tall as me and now the tree was 35 feet tall.

I see the tree daily. It brings back good memories of Corinne every time I walk by or pass it while mowing. It warms my heart knowing that because of a decision by her mother and I to plant the tree decades ago, it is a generational event that she will be sharing with others when as she has a picnic under its arching boughs.

It never occurred to me at the time the importance of the tree in my life. The living gift that my daughter enjoys and, looking forward, her children and her children’s children. I hope that you will consider a living gift of any type during this holiday gifting season. It can be planted at anytime and the memories last forever.

This column was coordinated by ACES youth corps member, Ana Satir. She asks, if you care about issues like these and would like to learn more and possibly do a bit more or have any questions, please send an email to To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit

Mike Hennessey is the City of Newburyport’s parks manager.

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about the author
Mike Hennessey

Mike Hennessey is the Parks Manager for the City of Newburyport’s Parks Dept. He is a graduate of the University of Lowell with a degree in Business Management. Formerly the owner of Hennessey Landscape Services, Inc. for 28 years, Mike’s horticultural and arboriculture knowledge stem from an ingrained respect and enthusiasm for the Green Industry. A Mass Certified Landscape Professional, Organic Landcare Professional and an ISA Certified Arborist, Mike is passionate about the Urban Forest
and its health as well as all of Newburyport’s 26 parks.

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