MARQUETTE - Tuesday wasn't just the first day of school for students and teachers at Cherry Creek Elementary School, it was also the first day of school since the death of former principal Tami Bott.
To honor her memory, the school held a ceremony outside the front entrance of the building, where a flowering crab tree was planted as a memorial to Bott, who had fought a tough battle with cancer for five years.
"It's wonderful. I'm just so pleased they thought to do this," said Bobbie Clift, Bott's mother, known to many of the students at Cherry Creek as Grammy Bobbie. "The idea of planting the tree is wonderful because it is something that will grow and keep growing."
Jim Mackey, president of the Cherry Creek School Association, speaks during a ceremony Tuesday morning that dedicated a flowering crab tree to the memory of former Cherry Creek principal Tami Bott. Bott died in June after fighting a long battle with cancer. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
The group releases red balloons during the ceremony. Tied to each balloon was a card that said a wish for Bott written by the teacher holding the balloon. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
On the 100th day of school, a plaque will be placed next to the tree.
Jim Mackey, president of the Cherry Creek School Association, which purchased the tree, spoke during the ceremony.
"We put this tree in not to replace Mrs. Bott because Mrs. Bott was special to all of us, but (as) a place that we could come and think about her," Mackey said. "She's going to live in our hearts and our memories for the rest of our lives."
Bott's daughter, Alex Bott, 20, also said a few words.
"I want all of you to know that she talked about the students and staff of this school all the time," Bott said, tearing up as she spoke. "She loved each and every one of you from the bottom of her heart. ... Just know that you guys made her life whole. ... You guys made her the awesome person she was, so thank you."
Following Bott's remarks, the teachers released red balloons they had been holding, to the delight of the kids gathered outside. Each balloon was attached to a card that had the wish of a teacher for Tami Bott written on one side, and an email address on the other. If a balloon is found, the finder can email the address on the card saying where it ended up.
Mackey also said the National Weather Service in Negaunee Township would attempt to predict, based on wind patterns, where the balloons would land.
Bott died in June. According to the obituary printed in The Mining Journal, Bott began her career at Marquette Area Public Schools in 1988 at Whitman Elementary School. From there, she became principal at Graveraet Intermediate School before moving to Cherry Creek.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.