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Leisure Services

Posted on: November 9, 2020

Cookeville Strong Memorial Tree Grove a place to remember tornado victims

Cookeville Strong Memorial Tree Grove

COOKEVILLE – A place for remembrance and healing is now part of the Cane Creek Park complex.

The Cookeville Strong Memorial Tree Grove was planted Nov. 7 at the corner of West Jackson Street and C C Camp Road near the Sportsplex ballfields. It includes 19 trees in memory of the 19 people lost to the March 3 tornado. 

“We’re honored to be the chosen location for this tree grove,” Cookeville Leisure Services Director Rick Woods said of the complex, which is maintained by his department. “It will be a great memorial to those who lost their lives in the tornado and others who endured great hardships.”

The grove was planted in honor of Robert Dickson, Hattie Collins, Dawson Curtis, Terry Curtis, Joshua Kimberlin, Erin Kimberlin, Sawyer Kimberlin, Todd Koehler, Sue Koehler, Patricia Lane, Leisha Littenberry, Harlan Marsh, Stephanie Field, Bridgette McCormick, Keith Selby, Cathy Selby, Jamie Smith, Jessica Clark and Amanda Cole.

It includes a mix of shade trees native to Tennessee, including bald cypress, oak, maple, sweetgum and tulip poplar.

The City of Cookeville partnered with the Nashville Tree Foundation and Tennessee Urban Forestry Council to organize the planting event, which was attended by family members of the victims, local volunteer organizations and people from all over Tennessee and Kentucky.

“The project allowed us to gather as a community and take a step toward healing,” Jaime Nunan, Cookeville urban forester, said. “Since the tornado and then COVID, there has been so much loss. The gathering on Nov. 7 allowed us to work together on a memorial that will outlive all of us. It will serve as a reminder for generations to come of the loss we suffered and how the community healed.”

In addition to the 19 trees, the grove includes a bench donated by the Cookeville Tree Board with a plaque that reads as follows: “Perhaps the most tragic event in Cookeville’s history occurred March 3, 2020, at approximately 2 a.m. An E4 tornado struck down in our town taking 19 lives and injuring many more. The tornado ravaged our community and changed our lives forever, so we gathered to plant this memorial as a display of the strong community roots that helped guide us through dark hours and to symbolize a new season for Cookeville.” 

Nunan said the planting event was even more special than she had anticipated.

“I thought I knew how important this project would be while planning it with Andrew Bell from the Nashville Tree Foundation, but it wasn’t until we saw families praying, crying and rejoicing in the moment over the memorial trees that we really understood the importance,” she said. “Cookeville is such a special community.”

Bell was moved as well.

“I often feel like I am doing good through my work, but never before have I felt the way I did this morning,” he said following the planting.

For more information about the Cookeville Strong Memorial Tree Grove, call Cookeville Leisure Services at 931-520-4386 or Nunan at 931-520-5337.

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