Hanna Kissam shared fond memories of Elizabeth H.W. Lawrence while dedicating a blue spruce in her honor.
Poet Lucy Larcom wrote: “He who plants a tree, plants a hope.”
Hildegard Moore recited that quote to a small group of people gathered around a blue spruce on the lawn of the Social Center in Elizabethtown Sept. 11.
The tree was planted to honor Elizabeth “Betsy” Lawrence, who died from cancer Feb. 14, 2012, and her family.
“It is a gentle reminder of the ways trees enrich our lives, just like the way the Lawrence family enriched the lives of those around them,” said Moore, who was the president of the Social Center’s board for 20 years.
Betsy was the last in a family legacy of community involvement in Elizabethtown.
She and her parents, Richard and Elizabeth, all served as trustees to the Social Center and were on the board of directors.
One of Betsy’s friends, Hanna Kissam, has fond memories of her: “She was a free spirit, but she was very concerned about her fellow man. She spent all her free time doing for others. Her father and her mother were like that, too.”
Betsy grew up in Elizabethtown but lived in Vermont for most of her life. Among her many accomplishments, she co-founded Green Mountain Prevention Projects and the Green Mountain Teen Institute, and worked for the Burlington Community Land Trust and the Vermont Council for the Arts.
Betsy returned to Elizabethtown to care for her father in 1998 and began working for the Housing Assistance Program of Essex County and the Elizabethtown Cemetery Association in 2002.
In addition to serving as a trustee of the Elizabethtown Social Center and the Cora Putnam Hale Trust, she was chair of the Essex County Community Services Board and the Essex County Historical Society, and a board member of the Boquet Housing Development.
It is true that most of Betsy’s work benefitted people, but she cared about other living things, too.
“About eight years ago, a dead blue spruce in front of the building (at the Social Center) had to be cut down,” Kissam said. “She was a nature lover and didn’t want to see that tree go.”
And so a blue spruce was planted in her honor, as a replacement for the one that was removed.
A memorial stone in front of the tree will remind those who use the Elizabethtown Social Center of the strong support the Lawrence family has provided the institution.
The blue spruce was donated by Taylor Tree Care in Westport, and the memorial stone was donated by Plattsburgh Memorials.
“The Social Center is a not-for-profit community center,” said Arin Burdo, director of the Elizabethtown Social Center. “We operate completely on private funds left for that purpose by Cora Putnam Hale in 1939.”
The center is free to anyone in the Elizabethtown, Lewis and New Russia area and offers activities like tennis and pool for members ages 12-19.
The center also has programs for adults, including Zumba classes and a new knitting, spinning and weaving class.
“In two years we will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Social Center,” Burdo said. “I can’t thank everyone enough for coming out to support the Lawrence family and the Social Center.”
For more information, visit elizabethtownsocialcenter.org.