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Burr Oak planted at Arbor Day festivities

Jim Martin tosses a handful of dirt on the oak tree planted in his honor recently during Arbor Day ceremonies in Rendezvous Park. David Samson / Forum Communications Co.

Arbor Day took on special meaning this year for Jim Martin, who had a stately Burr Oak tree planted in his honor May 4.

Part of the significance of the occasion was where the ceremony was conducted - in Rendezvous Park, adjacent to Aurora Elementary School, close to land that was previously farmed by Jim and his wife of over 50 years, Marlys.

The Martins continue to live near the planting site on the original family farmstead at 5102 Sheyenne St. The family is lifelong residents of the community. Jim's grandparents homesteaded on the land, which was eventually farmed by his parents. While a student at West Fargo High School in the 1950s, Jim laid the groundwork for his own participation in the farming operation, spending almost 50-years in the profession before retiring in 1996. He and Marlys continue to live on the farm today.

Jim personally selected the Burr Oak as his tree of choice for the Arbor Day planting, based on its sturdy reputation and the fact that it should hopefully thrive and grow for many years to come.

All four of the Martin daughters were on hand to help celebrate the occasion - Deb Matzke, Lori Johnson, Cathy Birrenkott, and Jill Swenson - along with some of their spouses and Martin grandchildren.

A humorous aspect of the gathering, and duly noted, was that all four of the girls had the responsibility of hoeing trees around the farm as they were growing up, a job they didn't particularly enjoy. Ironically, the culmination of that long ago memory was now assisting with the planting of a tree in their dad's honor, a moment they all definitely savored and wouldn't have missed for anything.

Taking family involvement a step farther, Cathy's second grade class from Eastwood Elementary, where she is an instructor, was in attendance to help out; as was Mr. Moe's fourth grade Eastwood class where granddaughter, Cami, is enrolled; and Lisa Marcil's fifth grade class at Aurora Elementary, where granddaughter, Danielle Swart, attends.

The students entertained with a special poem and music and helped provide the oak the proper start by filling the hole around it with rich, black dirt.

Jim said he was truly honored by the Arbor Day planting. His wife Marlys added that the entire family was proud, noting that her husband "was really deserving of the honor. Jim's kind of a modest person, but he truly was honored and also very proud. He has always taken great pride in how our farmstead and land has looked. It was really a fun day and we were happy that some of the grandkids and their schools could participate."

The occasion also marked recognition for West Fargo as Tree City USA as announced by Sharon Bartels, representing the North Dakota Forest Service.

The annual Arbor Day event is sponsored by the West Fargo Urban Forestry Committee, who also served refreshments following the program.