For several members of the Watauga Historical Association 2012 has been a year of loss, but a ceremony held at Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site Wednesday evening hoped to ease some of the pain of this year.
As the time grew closer to 5 p.m., family members of Ralph “Pat” Diddle, Wanda McEwen Murray and Jessica Murray Arnold, as well as members of the WHA, slowly drove onto the site and gathered near each of three white dogwood trees that had already been placed into their spots.
Cheryl Smith, president of the WHA, spoke at each tree’s dedication spot, as family members one by one came up to the tree and tossed a shovel full of dirt into the hole that had been dug. A member from the Diddle and Murray families also tied a yellow ribbon with their family members name on it on to each tree.
Smith said the trees planted were all part of a memorial ceremony that the WHA wanted to do to honor the three people who died earlier this year.
“We wanted to have a living memorial in honor of those three individuals and we felt that it was a gesture to provide something that symbolizes life,” she said.
Planting the trees on the right side of the gravel drive upon entering Tipton Haynes, 2620 S. Roan St., was well thought out, according to site Director Penny McLaughlin, who helped with the coordination and location placement of the trees.
“We decided that the best place to plant it would be where people would first come on into the site,” McLaughlin said. “We hope that there will be maybe three or four more (trees) planted here.”
During the planting ceremony, Frank Murray, son of Wanda McEwen Murray and father of Jessica Murray Arnold, expressed his appreciation for the trees planted for his loved ones, as well as Martha Diddle, wife of Ralph ‘Pat’ Diddle.
“I’d like to thank WHA for this honor to Pat. All of you that knew him knew how much he enjoyed history and how much effort he put into WHA over the years,” Diddle said. “And, of course, I miss him and I hope you miss him, too. But, thank you again for this honor.”
Smith said Tipton Haynes was picked because it is where the WHA has been holding its meetings for the organization and they agreed it would be easy access for family members of those honored by the trees. She said plaques will eventually be placed at each tree identifying the person the tree was dedicated for, but for now the ribbons tied onto the trees serve as the marking.
“We think a great deal of these folks and we want to do something special,” she said. “This is a very difficult time for all involved and if we can do a small portion ... that can help add comfort and healing, that’s what we would like to do.”
According to Smith, the Watauga Historical Association is an organization that’s been active since around 1980 and its mission is to help promote, protect, perpetuate and educate people on the history and heritage of the region.