Flint, MI (August 9, 2007)- A broken shovel and a hole are all that remain at the spot where children planted a tree two years ago to remember “Grandma Jan.” The tall, flowering tree that children pooled their change to buy has been stolen.
“It was their pennies, nickels and dimes that bought that tree. … It’s very sad,” said Sandy Clay, a learning support teacher at Williams Elementary School on Flint’s east side. “I was shocked. I couldn’t believe anybody would have the audacity to actually come and dig out a 20-foot tree,” Clay said. All that was left of the $150 tree were some roots. The thief did a lousy job of getting the tree out of the ground. “I don’t think it will survive, because of the way they tore it out. There are a lot of roots still here,” observed Rider.
The tree had stood outside the school since 2005 when students planted it in honor of Janice Arcand-March. Arcand-March was a 12-year volunteer at the school before she died of a stroke Jan. 31, 2005, at age 58. Known to students as “Grandma Jan,” Arcand-March spent hours each week helping out and had been called the heart of the school.
Saddened students made a quilt in her honor and collected $100 to buy a tree in her memory. The tree was planted in June 2005 and was a familiar sight at the school until Tuesday morning, when workers realized the tree had been taken. “There was a broken shovel in the dirt,” said Clay.
Students will be returning to classes at Williams Elementary in about three weeks. The faculty is worried for the children. “I think they’re going to be shocked and very saddened,” predicted Clay. “They’re going to be very sad,” Rider added.
Already two years old when it was planted, the tree was about 20 feet tall. “It was a good-sized tree,” Clay said. “It was so pretty … it makes me sick.”
Clay said whoever took it has taken something far more valuable from the schoolchildren. “Grandma Jan was very important,” said Clay. “For those children, (the tree) was something they could give back.”
Karen Krohn, Williams Elementary Principal