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Patriotic reception for tree project
A band, flag-waving boy and girl scouts, gray-haired veterans, and speeches framed a picture-perfect patriotic Thursday morning dedication of a Smyrna Park grove of trees planted in tribute to all of American's presidents.

There was just one missing ingredient: Shirley Davis, the woman who stirred the community to plant the Let Freedom Ring project. Mrs. Davis, a member of the Ceres Garden Club who came up with the idea to plant 44 aristocrat pear trees, was present for the April 14 planting but died April 23 of cancer.

Her widower, Del Davis, was present with members of her family and friends who stronglyl feel her loss.

"I wish she could have have been here," said a teary-eyed Pat Askew, a friend and member of the club.

The city allowed the club to plant the fruitless pear trees that line the meandering sidewalk from Smyrna Park's western flank to the children's play area. Davis felt that the trees would not only beautiful the park but allow park users - and visiting school children - a chance to read the names and terms of offices of each man.

The club raised $6,000 to fund the "Let Freedom Ring" grove. Each tree has been assigned a president's name and years of service on a small in-ground granite marker.

The trees George Washington at the west end with successive presidents alternating sides of the walkway until completed with Barack Obama at a high point in the park. There will be room to add future presidents.

While 43 men served as president, there are 44 trees in the grove since two trees represent two non-consecutive terms served by Grover Cleveland (22nd and 24th terms).

Only five American presidents live today - Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Sue Bennett of the California Garden Club attended the event and praised the project as "an example of what a small club can do to benefit their community."

Ceres Unified School District Supt. Scott Siegel remarked that the grove was "creative and educationally valuable."

Members of Girl Scout Troop #2239 and newly formed Ceres Boy Scout Troop 6 clutched onto small American flags as they led a procession past all the trees, followed by dignitaries. When they got to the end Councilman Eric Ingwerson looked down at the last plaque that read, "Barack Obama, 2009 - " and remarked, "Look Barack, it's open ended." That prompted State Senator Sal Cannella's aide, Mia Brudnicki to respond, "We'll see in November."

Among those on hand were Ceres Garden Club president Jim Bergamaschi, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and city officials.

The dedication ceremony included a brief presentation from Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra who read a proclamation on June 14 being National Arbor Day in Ceres.

City recreation staff member Traci Farris offered her own personal views of Shirley Davis, saying, "She leaves a hole in our hearts but leaves a legacy for others to enjoy."

Among the girl scouts posted at the trees was Rylee Purdom from Bend, Ore., who is Shirley Davis' great-granddaughter.