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The Scarlet & Black

Tree planting in memory of Whitney

In a week, a new piece of color will be added to campus to carry on the memory of Grinnell student Whitney Hendrickson ’12, who passed away during spring break of her first year.
On Saturday, Oct. 17, a Red Maple tree will be planted in the southwest section of central campus in memory of Whitney Hendrickson ’12, along with a plaque commemorating her time at Grinnell.
“She loved Grinnell. It was just perfect fit for her. She really blossomed at Grinnell and discovered all sorts of interests and was really starting to launch off into adulthood,” said Whitney’s mother, Clelia DeMoraes.
Whitney died on March 17, 2009 in her hometown of Colorado Springs, Colo., when a pick-up truck collided with the gas pump she was using to fill up her minivan.
Soon after a memorial was held for Whitney on April 3 in Herrick Chapel, the idea for the memorial came during discussions between Dean of Religious Life Deanna Shorb and Whitney’s close friends, during the planning of her memorial.
“We liked the idea of a tree because Whitney loved trees, she loved climbing in trees,” DeMoraes said. “I think she had even climbed several of the trees on the Grinnell campus, so it just seemed very fitting for her.”
The Red Maple tree will stand out in central campus, with its vibrant colors colors in the fall contrasted against the other trees.
“It’s the perfect dedication to Whitney that we give her such a beautiful and outstanding tree. She just loved nature, in that vein I think she would love this,” said Brad Gordon ‘12, Whitney’s boyfriend during her time at Grinnell. “Everyone unanimously agreed.”
President of the College Russell K. Osgood was key in moving the dedication along. “I didn’t want this to end from the perspective of [Whitney’s family] and Grinnell without something that would be an enduring sign of her here,” Osgood said.
Along with the dedication of the tree and a plaque, a brunch will be held shortly after the initial service. Whitney’s family will be in attendance for the event and has asked anyone who would like to visit or meet them to come to Grinnell House for coffee and juice.
“Whitney has such spectacular friends and our house was filled with her friends both before she died and after she died,” DeMoraes said. “We’re really looking forward to seeing her friends again—we did come out for the memorial service last spring and we haven’t been back since.”
Osgood said he hopes that the early scheduling Saturday morning will allow students to attend the service before heading home for fall break.
“I know people need to leave and everything, but I hope people can be there and that’s why we put it early on Saturday,” Osgood said.
Along with the memorial on Grinnell’s campus, a garden and statue have been planned for the Miramont Castle museum in Colorado, where Whitney spent her summers working.
“Some of the students at Palmer High School and some of her former teachers at Palmer High School and the executive director of Miramont Castle got together and decided it’d be a wonderful idea to create a garden in her memory,” DeMoraes said.
In addition to the garden, a local sculptor offered to donate a sculpture of Whitney to be placed in the garden. “Next summer we’re planning to have an opening reception and invite Whitney’s friends to come see the garden in bloom and the new statue.” DeMoraes said.
The Hendrickson’s asked that any donations be sent to the Care N’ Share food bank of Colorado Springs, a charity that Whitney was involved with.
“We really want to thank everyone at Grinnell who’s been so kind and considerate towards us and helping us to preserve Whitney’s memory,” DeMoraes said.
The tree will stand as a testament to Whitney’s effect on her friends and classmates long after current students have left this campus for new homes. “I hope that everyone will see this not as necessarily closure, not like, ‘Let’s put an end to this,’ but something that will always be there. Whenever we come back, we can always pay our respects to Whitney,” Gordon said. “She loved this place so much.”

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