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Red Bay honors Arbor Day, bicentennial

Red Bay City Hall was filled with two things March 13: trees and celebrators.

The Red Bay Garden Club, with the help of the Red Bay Tree Commission, held its annual Arbor Day celebration and honored the memory of famous native Emma Frances Bullen Bryan, as well as the state of Alabama’s 200th birthday.

“I think it’s important to take time to remember and honor those who have made significant contributions to Red Bay,” Mayor Charlene Fancher said.

The Alabama Bicentennial tree that was planted in Heritage Park is a bay tree, which is historically significant for Red Bay because it is where the city derives part of its name. Garden Club member Rosalyn Fabianke described it as a “stately, strong tree with many branches.”

Fabianke briefly explained why the club was honoring Bryan’s memory. Bryan wrote the poem “Every Light a Prayer for Peace” when she was a senior in high school in the 1950s. She wrote the poem for a Garden Club contest and won. Ever since then, the poem has been read annually at the state capital as part of an Every Light a Prayer for Peace ceremony.

“It’s quite a legacy that began here in Red Bay,” Fabianke said.

Scotty Kennedy, head of the Tree Commission, reminisced about pictures of Bryan that Judy Bullen showed him. The pictures depicted Bryan’s life in Red Bay as she grew up.

“Red Bay is known for the unique individuals it produces,” Kennedy said.

Family and long-time friends of Bryan spoke about her and shared stories from their lives together. Anne Vinson said that she was “very wise” and “seemed close to God.”

Members of the Garden Club and Tree Commission and family and friends of Bryan were chosen to place the first scoops of dirt on the bay tree. Fabianke committed the Garden Club, Tree Commission and community to take care of the tree with its “great strength and beauty.”

LaVale Mills shared the history of Arbor Day, which began in Nebraska in the late 1800s.