Red Bay celebrates Arbor Day by remembering longtime Garden Club member
The City of Red Bay held a ceremony Sunday in City Hall to honor longtime Red Bay Garden Club member Peggy Ann Keeton, who passed away in July 2021. A Japanese magnolia, along with a marker, will be placed along the trail at the Hoyt Keeton Walking Park, located next to the Red Bay Water Park.
Red Bay Mayor Charlene Fancher said Keeton continues to be an important legacy of the roots of Red Bay, remarking she had the honor of enjoying Keeton’s company as a friend and member of the community and Garden Club.
Tracy McCauley, Garden Club president, said the Keeton family – many of members of which were present at the ceremony – has contributed much to Red Bay throughout the years, “leaving a legacy of strength, faith and commitment, deeply anchored to the ground, similar to that of a tree’s trunk.”
“Peggy Keeton was like a beautiful, strong, flowering tree, deeply rooted in our community,” she added, “because of her strong commitment to her family, to her church and her deep devotion to the City of Red Bay.”
Trees from the Alabama Forestry Commission are still available at Red Bay City Hall for those who want them, at no cost, as long as supply lasts. Some of the trees available include red maple, hazelnut, bald cypress, scarlet oak and horn berry. Scotty Kennedy, acting chairperson of the tree committee, spoke about considerations for which trees to plant or not plant.
Red Bay was named a 2022 Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation to honor its commitment to effective urban forest management. The city received the recognition by meeting the four requirements of the program: maintaining a tree board or department, having a tree care ordinance, dedicating an annual community forestry budget and hosting an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
“The celebration of Arbor Day has always been a very large part of our Red Bay Garden Club,” explained club president Tracy McCauley. “It goes hand-in-hand with our beautification efforts within the community through the planting of trees. It is a privilege to honor someone that has made such an impact to our community.”
Mary-Kathryn Wiggins also spoke about Keeton, and Holly McKinney conducted the tree dedication. Family and friends took turns adding dirt to the tree.
“Peggy Keeton was full of life and full of love for her family, friends, church and, of course, her garden,” Wiggins said. “Peggy was married to Hoyt Keeton for 55 years, and they had four children: Hal, Lisa, Kathy and Butch, as well as a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“The Keetons purchased Big Star of Red Bay in 1989, and it’s still run by the family to this day,” she added.
Wiggins said Keeton was a longtime member of First United Methodist Church in Red Bay and enjoyed playing Pinochle and Rook with friends. “Like most avid gardeners, Peggy could not ever choose a favorite flower. She loved all types of plants and had a particular affinity for ferns,” she added.
Wiggins explained while researching the symbolism of magnolia trees, she came up with “so many things” that could apply to Keeton, noting the trees represent “love of nature and provide nesting sites and seeds for the birds she enjoyed watching.”
“They are one of the quintessential Southern plants, just as Peggy was a quintessential Southern lady,” added Wiggins. “They represent perseverance, dignity and strength — all qualities that also applied to Peggy.”
Wiggins said by planting the tree in her memory, magnolias, known for their longevity, “future generations will know her name and that she was special.”
“They will know she was a beloved person worthy of being honored with this tree planting.”