07/19/12 — Eagle Scout project led to 'Keller's trees' at hospital

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Eagle Scout project led to 'Keller's trees' at hospital

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 19, 2012 1:46 PM

Just call Kirk Keller the Johnny Appleseed of Wayne County, except with pine trees.

That's what Tom Bradshaw, vice president of operations at Wayne Memorial Hospital, quipped when discussing the "Kirk Keller pine trees" that have adorned the entryway of the hospital campus for nearly four decades.

Keller, 51, is operations management instructor in the business and technology division at Wayne Community College. But in 1973, he was an eighth-grader at Rosewood High School. And a Boy Scout.

Through his job with Southern Bell, Kirk's father, Bob Keller, did some work at the hospital. When he found out about a tree-planting project on the grounds, he mentioned it to his son, who was looking for a project to complete his Eagle Scout requirements.

Assisted by fellow Scouts, Keller planted 500 pine trees in a horseshoe area surrounding the front and sides of the hospital.

Throughout the years since, he has always kept an eye on what he calls "my trees," especially since he now works right next door to the property.

"They're my babies and I have watched them grow," he said. "I find myself going to check on them, like if lightning struck. They have thinned out a lot of them over the years."

His parental interest surfaced when he met Bradshaw at a Rotary Club function a few years ago and realized his affiliation with the hospital.

"As we were chatting, he said, 'Oh, I planted those trees as part of my Eagle Scout project. If you ever cut any down, I would like to know because I would like to have a log and make things from (it),'" Bradshaw recalls. "At the time, of course, we had no plans to do it.

So when hospital officials decided to construct a medical office building on campus and began clearing the land last month, Bradshaw got in touch with Keller, who asked for a small section of a single tree trunk .

"I just thought of the idea, how cool it would be to have a plaque out of those trees," he said. "I thought, what a great opportunity to take one of those trees that are now as tall as they are and take a section and be able to make a plaque for myself and one for the hospital."

The project will be a labor of love for Keller, who calls his years in Scouting "the best time of my life."

Keller remains active in Scouting, advising boys on h ow to choose a fitting Eagle project.

"That's what the Eagle Scout projects are for, not just the Scout but for the community," he said. "It's teaching young boys at that age how important it is and that can be lasting in the community."