Steward celebrates Arbor Day 2021

Posted 8/2/21

On the warm and breezy blue-sky Sunday, May 2, the Village of Steward celebrated Arbor Day at Wesley Steward Memorial Park.

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Steward celebrates Arbor Day 2021

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STEWARD — On the warm and breezy blue-sky Sunday, May 2, the Village of Steward celebrated Arbor Day at Wesley Steward Memorial Park. 

Village residents and family and friends of the late Emmett Barnes were on hand in the park pavilion to witness the planting of a memorial oak tree for the former village president, who had passed away last February. 

The national anthem was sung by the crowd and current Village President Hugh McKiski gave his Arbor Day Proclamation. Memories were shared of Barnes’s legacy to the Village. Steward School eighth grader Lucas Smardo sang “Steward Song,” which was written and composed for the centennial by Emmett Barnes and Pauline Barnes Cultra. 

The legacy began on a family vacation when they enjoyed nice parks in towns along their way. They knew of nothing stopping Steward from having one also. The current park had a swing set and plenty of open space. Barnes came home and began imagining and drafting plans.

Then he set out to raise the money. Former Steward resident Connie (Mace) Dowling, whom Barnes had inspired and assisted in her music career, explained that the whole town got behind him to put on Farmers Market Days which were held several summers in a row. 

This was also around the time of the Steward’s centennial.  They had parades, a midway with entertainment, food, games and of course, a farmers’ market!

From the money earned playground equipment was purchased and improvements made. Eventually the pavilion was built.  

The tree that was planted in Barnes’s memory was a Scarlet Oak. Tree Advisory Committee Chairperson Karen Bonnell spoke about oaks and the part they played in building great civilizations. 

She compared Barnes to oak trees. The work he did continues to benefit the community and several people have stepped up to help maintain and build upon it. To help people identify various types of oak trees, and since this was a musical group of people, Bonnell concluded by teaching “Know, Know, Know Your Oaks” to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” 

Tree donors Connie and Richard Dowling threw the first shovels-full of dirt to plant the tree, followed by members of the Emmett Barnes family and former Village President Mil Danekas.

The Village of Steward, for the 17th time, has attained status as a Tree City USA. This is a program through the Arbor Day Foundation where municipalities have an Arbor Day Proclamation, celebrate Arbor Day, have a tree board and an ordinance and spend at least $2 per capita on trees. 

The first Arbor Day was initiated by one man, J. Sterling Morton, 149 years ago in Nebraska.  It is now an international event focusing not on the past, but the future. StFor further information, go to arborday.org.