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If every town had a Paul LaMond, every town would be better.
A tireless advocate for what he believed, LaMond was unceasing in his work to do right. Before his passing in September 2014, the work spearheaded by LaMond helped beautify Middletown and planted countless trees across the community.
In Lamond’s honor, the Tree Commission put forward a proposal recently to plant a tree and plaque in Middletown Valley Park behind the Aquidneck Shopping Centre, a plan endorsed overwhelmingly by the Town Council.
“I think it’s fantastic,” council Vice President Paul M. Rodrigues said. “Paul LaMond devoted 20 years of his life to the beautification of Middletown with tree plantings all over town. It’s a great way to honor Mr. LaMond.”
“I also spent some time with Paul and he was a hard charger,” council President Robert J. Sylvia said. “He was dedicated to the Town of Middletown. I’ll never forget one day he called me up and said ‘Bob, do you have any ideas about what kind of trees we should plant down in the Valley?’ and I said ‘Do you have any money trees, Paul?…He was a great guy, a dedicated Middletowner.”
To say Lamond loved Middletown was an understatement. In addition to being a founding member of the Tree Commission, Lamond was a trustee for the Middletown Public Library and a member of the Middletown Historical Society.
He also gave time to the Meals on Wheels program, the St. Lucy’s Soup Kitchen and other local volunteer work.
It was common to see Lamond at council meetings when there was a subject that interested him or he felt compelled to speak. And speak he would in his succinct, direct manner, but in a way that never came across as combative or condescending, a true art.
Tree Commission Chairwoman Karen Day said the idea to honor one of Middletown’s biggest advocates just made sense. The idea was recently okayed by the town’s Citizen Memorial Committee and all costs would be covered by the Tree Commission.
“Paul’s dedication and the dedication of so many other volunteers in this town help to create a community that we can be so proud of,” Day said. “As we all know, the needs are many and the resources are limited. These volunteers like Paul do work and provide support that would not be possible if people just said, ‘That’s the Town’s job. That’s why I pay taxes.’ They see a need and find a way to fill it.”
Asked what LaMond would think of Middletown Valley Park off High Street, Day said the first word that came to mind was“thrilled.” The park serves as an oasis in the heart of the community, a place where people can get outside, enjoy the peace and quiet while walking the winding trails.
“I think to say he would be thrilled would be an understatement,” Day said. “Discussions about how to proceed with state approval on the creation of the park were just beginning when Paul become ill. He was so excited about the possibilities.I only wish hecould see it now and I hope we have honored his idea that the park be a naturally beautiful location that would provide simple enjoyment to all the residents and visitors to this town.”
One of LaMond’s daughters –Jennifer LaMond –agreed, saying her father lived to help Middletown.
“The first thing my dad would tell you is that in all his volunteer dealings with Middletown, including the Tree Commission, the Library Board of Trustees and the Community Garden, he was so impressed and inspired by the people who worked for Middletown, employees and volunteers,” Jennifer LaMond said. “He spoke glowingly of the helpful people at Town Hall, from the ‘officers like (Town Administrator) Shawn (Brown) to the clerks.“
If he saw Middletown Valley Park now, he would be so proud of the work of Karen and the other people on the Tree Commission but he wouldn’t be surprised.I think he was more surprised that townspeople didn’t realize the caliber of people on the boards and committees and the amount of work they do.He also would say that the support from foundations like the Van Beuren Family Trust and the Champlin Foundation didn’t get enough recognition.”
Despite all his success helping Middletown, LaMond never seemed to make it about him. He was always focused forward on how to make the community better –and more beautiful –for everyone.
“Paul saw the destruction Hurricane Bob did when it hit Middletown. Hundreds of trees were destroyed or damaged,” Day said. “He realized there was no policy or procedures in place to repair and replant all the damage that had been done. He, with the help of other residents, worked with the Town Council and the administration to create the first Tree Ordinance which codified the importance of trees to the Town’s environment. It also created the Tree Commission.”
And the results of that hard work are everywhere you look in Middletown. Since the Tree Commission first was created, the group has helped plant well more than 1,200 trees across the community.
Day said LaMond also helped kick off the Middletown tree planting program as well. Under that initiative, residents can purchase a new tree at local nurseries for a reduced price as a way to encourage tree planting in the community.
Through that campaign, she said more than 1,000 trees have been planted on private property over the last 10 years plus. For more information, visit https://tree-commission.middletownri.comonline.
“The trees that line Valley Road, the cherries that go up and down Green End Ave, the trees along High Street, Aquidneck Ave, in Valley Park, and along so many other streets in Middletown, are there because of Paul’s work and his legacy,” Day said. “It was Paul’s idea for the Tree Commission to support local tree vendors by working with them and discounting a tree a resident was purchasing and planting in Middletown by $50 and the Tree Commission would reimburse the vendor. This encouraged trees to be planted on private property (which we could not do) and we could support local small businesses.”
Source: Town of Middletown