Residents and town officials gathered in Mead Memorial Park Friday morning, Arbor Day, for the ceremonial planting of a sycamore tree in honor of avid gardener and resident Richard Reifers, who died in February at the age of 95.
Reifers initiated and designed New Canaan's "mail garden" -- the mailboxes and plantings across from the former post office site on Pine Street.
Thomas Cronin, chairman of the Public Tree Board, which sponsored the event, consulted with Reifers' family members, who chose the sycamore, which is known for its longevity and hardiness. Cronin noted that sycamores "are very pretty" and grow quickly.
Sycamore trees also are highly resistant to pollution and can stand up well in inclement weather.
George Valchar, author of "My Connecticut Garden," said the sycamore is "among the biggest trees" in the country and can last about 140 years. Sycamores can grow as high as 175 feet.
Valchar worked on the mail garden with Reifers for more than 14 years. Valchar selected and maintained the plantings until 2007, when he turned it over to the New Canaan Beautification League.
Public Tree Board member Dick Bergmann said Reifers did a great service to New Canaan.
"Reifers was not only a great personal friend, but a wonderful human being, and one that was very active in this town," Bergmann said.
Reifers' daughter, Collette Huidekoper, was one of several family members to join the ceremony Friday.
"Dad loved New Canaan so much," she said. "It was a really important place to him."
Huidekoper said her father "loved trees and nature" and did most of his lawn work until very recently. "Up to about three years ago, he was still out there," she said.
Selectman Beth Jones, who presented a proclamation, said, "Trees in our town increase property values and enhance the economic vitality" of the business area. She urged citizens to plant more trees in New Canaan and to "promote the well-being of this and future generations."
Huidekoper, a Ridgefield resident, shares her father's admiration for New Canaan, which she calls "a special community."
"You have so much involvement by the people living in town," Huidekoper said. "They really care about their community and I think it really shows."
Arbor Day is observed throughout the nation and the world. In the U.S., most states observe it on the last Friday of April.
Donations for the tree planting and plaque in honor of Reifers can be made by sending a check made payable to the New Canaan Community Foundation and mailed to 111 Cherry St., New Canaan CT 06840. Donors are asked to write "2014 Tree Fund" in the memo area of the check.
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