Memorial tree for former Central student dies from heat, drought

Drought conditions have taken a toll on about two dozen trees across the Bibb County school district.

One of them had special significance.

In 2000, members of the Central High School Class of 1999 unveiled a plaque and planted a cherry tree in memory of their classmate, Geoffrey Grossman, a baseball star at the school who was diagnosed with leukemia just a week after graduation.

Earlier this month, workers cut down the tree.

They had tried to preserve it, as well as others that were stressed because of drought and record heat, according to Marty Drawhorn, the district’s director of maintenance.

“Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the tree’s health has suffered during the past year,” a statement from Drawhorn said. “Maintenance had been observing the tree for the last couple of months before determining that (it) was indeed dead, and (cut) it down a couple of weeks ago.”

Drawhorn said workers did what they could to protect the tree, including building a small island around it and the plaque when construction work was being done to the baseball field last year.

The school district plans on replacing all of the trees, including the cherry tree next to Grossman’s plaque, later this year when temperatures abate in order to give the trees a better chance for survival.

Glenn Grossman, Geoffrey’s father, said he didn’t know about the tree’s removal until Tuesday.

“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” he said. “No one bothered to tell me it was ailing.”

Grossman said he has helped maintain the tree over the past several years, but in the past couple of years, he got particularly busy with his work and didn’t have as much time to spend caring for it.

He said he understands that trees die, but he would have liked to have known it was in decline.

District officials said they generally don’t contact each person or group that plants a memorial tree because they don’t have a way of getting in contact with each family.

Geoffrey Grossman died in November 1999 after a six-month battle with leukemia.

The tree was dedicated on Feb. 18, 2000, next to the Central baseball field as part of Arbor Day.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.