Henderson War Memorial Holly Trees

Memorial holly trees were planted throughout the Henderson State University campus in Arkadelphia in memorial of their students and/or faculty who died during the following wars: World War I (1914-1918), World War II (1939-1945), Korean Conflict (1950-1953), and Vietnam Conflict (1961-1975).

The memorial tree plantings began with the “Memorial Grove” (located next to the Hule Library at the entrance of the campus, see photo and map), which consists of holly trees that were planted around 1919 as a memorial to Henderson six students & faculty who died in combat in World War I (five students and one former football coach). This memorial tree planting continued at various locations around campus for the Henderson students & faculty who died in World War II (40), Korean Conflict (count not sure at this time), and Vietnam Conflict (9) which total over 55 honorees from this university who died in active duty. The last planting ceremony was held 35 years ago on April 20, 1974.

The student body assembled on the front campus where they heard a former student and professor, Farrar Newberry, proclaim: “We build a memorial not of stone, not of bronze, but of the living tree – and this is symbolic of the service they performed for Henderson, France, and the world.” A tribute was paid to each of the six with the planting of that number of holly trees in a circle on the front lawn called the “Memorial Grove”.  Each tree was consigned a caretaker: four to the college‟s classes, and one each to the academy and faculty.  This simple tribute prompted inquiry from the American Forestry Association, and the memorial trees were registered by that organization on its national honor roll.

The tradition of planting memorial holly trees on the campus continued for the Henderson students dying in World War II, the Korean, and Vietnam conflicts.  Some 40 Henderson students and the president of the school died during World War II.  For World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, trees were not planted for each person, but a number of holly trees were planted over the campus to fill in as needed.

The last ceremony was held April 20, 1974 for the nine (9) men who lost their lives in the Vietnam conflict. The following tribute was composed and read by the late Professor Emeritus Amy Jean Green: “We remember when the world was young and they walked this campus, young happy, full of sprizerkturm, the joy of living.  We remember them with tender love, and because we remember, we dedicated the holly trees planted on the hills and in the ravines of our beautiful campus.  We hereby dedicate these Hollies to the memory of Henderson‟s sons who have given their lives in past wars.  May we keep this institution strong, strong, and prove that we – and it – are worthy of the sacrifices of these young lives. AMEN”

The Holly tree has always been used for memorial plantings on campus – American Holly (Ilex opaca). Information provided by Dr. John G. Hall, Professor Emeritus of History and the managing director of the Henderson State University Foundation. His book: Henderson State College: The Methodist Years, 1890-1929 provided a valuable resource.

Location: Henderson State University, Arkadelphia
Registration: June 11, 2009
Species: American Holly

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