Message of Peace (Quietly) Planted in Rochester

A sapling from a 250-year-old Ginkgo biloba tree that stood 1,500 yards from ground zero of the A-bomb blast in Hiroshima during WWII has been planted in Rochester after a couple years of preparation and planning.

The young tree, a gift from former Town Administrator Michael McCue, was slated as a big deal for the Town before McCue’s departure in 2016 to become the town administrator of the Town of Hanson. But Highway Surveyor Jeffrey Eldridge planted the tree last week with Town Hall offering no mention of the event or the tree’s whereabouts. The young tree – the offspring of its mother tree that survived such a historical act of destruction and devastation – was planted at the Dexter Lane Ball Field, behind the playground, close to the woods without any fanfare or acknowledgment.

“I was happy that I could honor my outgoing pledge to the Town of Rochester by providing this tree as soon as it was ready to plant,” said McCue in an email on Friday, June 23. “I hope the tree will be a point of attraction for the Town and that it is seen as a symbol of peace as well as friendship with the country of Japan. I know that my friends in Hiroshima are proud to know it has taken root in Rochester.”

Some Hiroshima ginkgo saplings have been planted by prominent people in prominent locations, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who planted one at the UN European Headquarters in Geneva in 2016, among others.

Selectman Naida Parker said on Tuesday that the selectmen had not participated in the process of bringing the tree to Rochester and were not involved in the succession of events that led to the tree’s planting or the selection of the site for planting. She was unaware that the tree had even been planted last week, she said.

The selectmen have not planned any events acknowledging the tree, although Parker mentioned that Matthew Monteiro from the Historic District Commission has taken on the position of overseeing Arbor Day activities and he may be involved in some way with the Hiroshima ginkgo tree in Rochester.

Monteiro could not be reached in time for information before press time.

McCue had told The Wanderer in the past that he initially acquired a small number of the Hiroshima ginkgo saplings from The United Nations “Green Legacy Hiroshima Initiative.”

Green Legacy Hiroshima collects, safeguards, propagates, and then disperses internationally the seeds from mother trees that survived the A-bomb attack on Hiroshima.

The saplings are highly regarded and cherished by their recipients globally.

These trees and their saplings should remind us all of the resiliency of humanity and the indestructible bond humankind shares with one another. The trees are also an intrinsic cautionary reminder of the past, and a perpetual symbol of hope.

McCue also planted a ginkgo in Avon where he was the town administrator before coming to Rochester. In May of 2014, the Town of Avon planted the tree and held a ceremony attended by a representative of the Japanese consulate. McCue once noted that Rochester’s newly planted Hiroshima ginkgo would be one of only a small handful of such trees in the eastern half of the United States.

August 6 will mark the 72nd anniversary since the United Stated dropped an A-bomb on the city of Hiroshima, followed by one on August 9 in Nagasaki. More than 150,000 people died in Hiroshima and 75,000 in Nagasaki, and the cities were reduced to ruins. Yet somehow, 150 trees survived the devastation.

By Jean Perry


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