Hannibal-LaGrange alum Edward “Ned” Walsh was back in town Thursday for the planting of 14 trees along the university’s front drive.

Hannibal-LaGrange alum Edward “Ned” Walsh was back in town Thursday for the planting of 14 trees along the university’s front drive. Unfortunately, a steady rain forced the planting to be postponed a day. Walsh will be unable to stick around to help plant the State Street Maples.

“I wish I could. We’re going to be flying back to North Carolina, but (I’ll be there) in spirit,” he said.

Walsh was invited back for the tree planting because of his connection to the trees that for 54 years had lined the driveway until the May 20 storm.

“It was the summer before my freshman year. I came up here to get a job on campus. I got the job that paid for my tuition my freshman year,” he shared. “That summer we knew there was a big project coming to plant trees to beautify the driveway coming into the campus. Myself and several other of the summer workers got the job of planting the trees.”

Walsh recalled with a smile one specific task he was given to perform.

“I was given the keys to the farm pickup and a shovel. I was told to go to the dairy farm’s barnyard where there was ample fertilizer to fertilize every one of those trees. I shoveled the fertilizer into the pickup for two days and I fertilized every one of those trees. Each night at dinner no one wanted to sit with me,” he laughed.

While he won’t be holding a shovel Friday, Walsh will still feel a connection to the new trees, just as he did the ones he helped plant over a half century ago.

“Part of me was in those (previous) trees. I felt that I wanted to be a part of the new planting and the next 54 years,” he said. “According to the New and Old Testaments, we’re a part of this nature. We’re all one, so when it goes, a part of us goes. And when we plant, there’s a part of us that’s renewed. As they plant these, even though I’m 72 years old, there’s a part of me that’s renewed in the planting.”

Ed Tamerius, a member of Hannibal-LaGrange University’s Tree Campus USA Committee and the city’s Tree Board, applauded the decision to replace some of the approximately 100 trees that were damaged or destroyed in May.

“I’m very pleased that we have a president here at HLG (Dr. Anthony Allen) that is a tree person and basically has got such a strong vision for beautifying the campus,” he said. “This is a big step. I can only imagine what it’s going to look like in 15 years from now. Not only the college and not only the students, but the whole community is going to benefit from this.”

The trees being planted are already from 12 to 15 feet tall.

“They are starting out with a good-sized tree. Their chances of survival are going to be so much better and they’re off to a great start,” said Tamerius.

The new trees are being paid for with money donated to HLGU for tree replacement.

“People have been so incredibly generous,” said Dr. Judy Lemons, chairwoman of Hannibal-LaGrange University’s Tree Campus USA Committee. “We have enough money to pay for these 15 trees we’re planting this week. We have enough for next spring. We hope donations continue because we have plans to plant a lot more trees. We are very thankful for the people who care and want to help us.”