BELOIT—An Autumn Blaze Maple tree with the nickname “Ralphie” now is spreading its branches in back of Cunningham Intermediate School as a living memorial to former Cunningham Principal Ralph Berkley.
A tree planting ceremony was held Friday morning to honor Berkley who passed away this past May. Berkley had served as principal at Cunningham from 1997 to 2006. He also was a special education teacher and held other positions in the School District of Beloit during his nearly 40-year career here.
John Metter, Dorothy Harrell, Wanda Sloan and a few others contributed to getting the tree to honor Berkley. Dignitaries present for the tree planting ceremony included Beloit School District Superintendent Dan Keyser, Cunningham School Principal Jen Paepke, and Darrell Williams, Wisconsin Administrator of the Division of Emergency Management in the Department of Military Affairs and U.S. Senate candidate, among others.
A written dedication by John Metter was read at the ceremony noting how the tree was a fitting memorial to Berkley.
“With adequate sun and rain ‘Ralphie’ will secure its roots and each year grow stronger, just as the Cunningham students grow physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger,” Metter stated.
Keyser agreed, saying the tree will continue to grow as the students inside the school will grow to become the community leaders of the next generation.
Berkley graduated from Beloit Memorial High School in 1965. He joined the U.S. Army and he went on to earn a bachelors degree in special education from the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater. He later would earn a masters degree in special education and begin his education career with the School District of Beloit. He was involved in the community, serving on City of Beloit committees such as the Police and Fire Commission and he was a member of the NAACP Beloit Branch board.