Planting the Seeds (or bulbs) of Remembrance on Kent State’s Daffodil Hill
Today, as part of Kent State’s Veterans Day commemoration, a group of volunteers along with University Facilities Management (UFM) staff gathered with shovels, buckets, bulbs and bone meal on the hill overlooking The Commons near Taylor Hall.
Just a few yards from the May 4 Memorial, this group worked to dig holes, fill them with “just a puff” of bone meal and plant daffodil bulbs as part of University Facilities Management’s annual plan to keep Daffodil Hill in bloom as a living memorial to U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam War.
Shovels and gloves, water and cookies were provided. The work wasn’t easy. The steep angle of the hill and numerous tree roots meant that extra care and effort had to be taken when digging.
Volunteers were happy, and honored, to help
There were several veterans among the volunteers digging on the hill, including two who are part of the UFM staff. Matt Treem, a grounds supervisor and Army veteran, said he was “honored and proud” to help maintain Daffodil Hill.
Kyle Frazier works in the Kent State University Paint Department. Also an Army veteran, he said he was happy to help plant daffodils in remembrance of the veterans, while “beautifying the campus and making everybody remember.”
Additionally, a group of Kent State Army ROTC students, dressed in their OCP (Operational Camouflage Pattern) uniforms arrived to help dig holes and plant bulbs.
A very successful – and meaningful effort
In all, more than 1,000 bulbs were planted today. Thanks to the help of the volunteers, they were planted in about an hour and a half. The grounds crew plans to plant the balance of the 5,000 total bulbs scheduled to be planted this fall next week. There were about 2,500 dedicated for today’s planting.
“We’re as pleased as punch as to how many we got taken care of today,” said Rebekkah Berryhill, Kent State’s grounds manager. “It was actually really good conditions. Super sunny, 70 degrees – you can’t beat that! There was still some moisture in the soil, which was surprising because it has been a super dry November.
“These are important initiatives. This area has such a historical significance to the university, and we want to stay true to that,” she said. “And I want to personally thank the person who helped kick-start this effort, Phil Soencksen from University Communications and Marketing (UCM).
“And partnerships with different departments on campus are integral to us being able to continue to show the respect we show in doing these projects,” Berryhill continued.
“Today, we were able to work with some of our veterans, including alumni veterans and some of our staff veterans, we had students from the Army ROTC program and staff from UCM and the Center for Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement. Culinary Services provided water and treats. So, we hit it from all the prongs today.”
The origin and tradition of Daffodil Hill
Daffodil Hill was conceived in 1985 by Kent State Professor Emeritus Brinsley Tyrrell, while plans were being made for the construction of the May 4 Memorial.
Tyrrell was teaching sculpture on campus on May 4, 1970. He witnessed the shootings and their aftermath. “As part of my proposal, I wanted to plant 58,175 spring flowers all around the memorial, to symbolize the U.S. service people killed in Vietnam, which I felt was the whole background to the whole issue,” Tyrell said in a 2019 interview. His vision for the memorial was that it should bring people together and help them heal.
“The daffodils on Taylor Hill have an important connection to many of our alumni and to their own Kent State experiences,” said Leigh Greenfelder, associate vice president, philanthropy and alumni engagement. “The symbolism of planting these bulbs on Veterans Day is important, as we honor the original intent for Daffodil Hill. We are very pleased that alumni and students have come together today to participate in a way that honors the past and looks to the future.”
Plans for the future
White flags marked the boundaries of the areas that are designated for planting this fall. “Typically, I try to take photos each year, during the main flush of the bloom, so we know where we’re lacking in color, and that’s how we define the areas that we’re really going to fortify with bulbs for the next year,” Berryhill said.
Next fall she hopes to see even more volunteers on the hill during Kent State’s Veterans Day commemoration, along with more blooms on the hill in the spring.
The Center for Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement also hopes to establish a Daffodil Hill fund so that members of the Kent State community can help UFM purchase the bulbs it needs to maintain the hill and eventually restore it to its full display of 58,175+ flowers.
You can read more about the story of Daffodil Hill and what it takes to keep it in bloom here.