EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 18, 2013

Victims' memorial takes root

NECC plants tree to bloom annually at time of marathon

By Mike LaBella
mlabella@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — Betty Jaffe saw the best of times at the Boston Marathon during her many years there as a volunteer.

Two of her sons ran in the event for 20 years and she worked as a volunteer at a water station along the route.

"I have such good memories of the marathon,'' said Jaffe, who lives in Andover. "At the 100th anniversary of the marathon, a couple got married at my station. That was such an exciting run and the people you meet are fabulous."

Then came this year's worst of times — the bombings that killed three people and injured dozens of others, some severely.

Even though she was not volunteering at this year's marathon, the tragedy has been on Jaffe's mind since it happened April 15. Yesterday, she and other members of the Women of NECC organization created a lasting memorial to the bombing victims.

They planted a dogwood tree on the Haverhill campus of Northern Essex Community College. The tree's pink flowers will bloom every April — right around the anniversary date of the bombings.

The tree is located along the home stretch of a 5K race the college introduced this year. That race will become an annual event.

Jaffe raised the idea at the Women of NECC’s annual meeting in May. The group's board agreed and voted to buy the tree.

"I thought it would be nice to have a tribute in memory of all the people lost and injured during the Boston Marathon tragedy," Jaffe said during a ceremony yesterday when the tree was planted.

The tree was planted across from the college's B Building and near the finish line for the NECC Campus Classic 5K & Fun Run road race. The event, which was held May 4 and will become an annual race, drew about 160 runners along with 30 children who participated in the fun run.

NECC President Lane Glenn said the Campus Classic raises money for scholarships and promotes fitness on the campus and throughout the community. He said yesterday's tree planting ties in nicely with the Campus Classic, noting the tree was planted along the "home stretch" of the race — mirroring the area of the marathon where the bombings happened.

The site of the tree planting was selected by Lindsey Mayo and Margaret Pothier, co-chairs of the Campus Classic.

“I was taken by surprise at the recommendation and motion made by Betty and felt it was an extremely kind and thoughtful gesture,” said Jean Poth, NECC vice president of institutional advancement. “All board members overwhelming responded ‘yes’ to the motion. We will now hold the memory of that day at NECC for many years to come."

The Women of NECC is a volunteer organization which raises money for student scholarships and special projects by conducting a variety of fundraising events during the year, including a Fall Membership Tea and a June Gala Open House event.