Lion dates to the Class of 1891, CHS’s first graduating class
CHELMSFORD, MA (Mar. 6, 2023) – Near the end of a recent February school day, a small group of students hovered around the 6-foot-tall wood-carved lion outside the Chelmsford High School main office to the delight of CHS Secretary of Information Kelley Moreau.
The lion has been a fixture there since 2018 when its creator, Felix Huang ’19, now a senior and budding artist at Boston University, completed it in August 2018, just before his senior year. The lion has overlooked the CHS lobby since, but very few know its history.
Ms. Moreau hopes to change that.
Two plaques have been added on either side of the lion commemorating its story in a few short sentences. There isn’t nearly enough room on them to describe its significance and the mission put forth not just by Ms. Moreau and Mr. Huang, but Lead Custodian Charlie Buffum and retired wood shop educator Doug Greenfield.
The wood from the lion was salvaged from a purple beech tree that had been planted on the Chelmsford Town Common by CHS’s first graduating class in 1891. The tree stood for 121 years before it was removed by the Town’s Tree Replacement Establish and Enhancement (TREE) Committee in 2012 due to age and fear of falling.
Mr. Greenfield secured a large piece of the tree and stored it in his shop before asking Mr. Huang to sculpt a lion. Mr. Huang, who had immigrated from Taiwan in 2009, was already skilled in sculpting stone but had never carved wood.
“I was very honored,” said Mr. Huang, who will graduate from BU with dual bachelor of arts degrees in sculpture and graphic design in May. “I thought it was a great opportunity that I can’t let it slip away. I was honored to make a sculpture for my school in the time as a student and to showcase my artistic ability.”
Mr. Huang toiled for many hours – mostly over the summer of 2018 – from February through August of 2018 to bring it to completion. It was during his work that Ms. Moreau had stopped by the wood shop on a separate matter.
So moved by the tree’s history and Mr. Huang’s passion, Ms. Moreau asked Principal Steve Murray to fund two plaques to tell the lion’s story and its significance. She contacted the Town of Chelmsford Historical Society to see whether there might be a photo of the Apr. 25, 1891 Arbor Day planting ceremony.
Indeed there was, taken by a gentleman named Arthur Emerson (whose sister, Susie Emerson, organized the ceremony). Fred Merriam at the Chelmsford Historical Society was happy to provide it.
While the lion has stood proud in the CHS lobby, its history might not have been well known to CHS students and staffers until recently. Ms. Moreau had the two plaques assembled in 2018: one with the photograph of the Arbor Day ceremony and the tree a mere stick and twigs; the other a full-grown purple beech in its prime with its meaning inscribed by Mr. Huang:
“Our Mother Lion has five cubs. Each cub represents one of our celebrated and recognized core values: Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Dedication, and Empathy. These Values form the foundation for our development in the pursuit of excellence.”
A dedication ceremony was held in the fall of 2018.
Where to display the plaques proved to be a frustrating hurdle. The main office windows, the backdrop of the lion, was out of the question, as was attaching them to the lion. Several other ideas were discussed to no conclusion.
After four-plus years of hurdles, including the Covid-19 outbreak and other hindrances, Mr. Buffum had two standing plaque cases manufactured by Massachusetts corrections inmates through the MassCor program.
When the plaque stands were delivered on Feb. 8, it was an emotional day for Ms. Moreau. “I can’t even explain the joy I feel when the kids listen to the story,” she said. “It’s just pure joy because it’s such a great story.”
About Chelmsford Public Schools
The Chelmsford Public School District provides all students with multiple pathways to optimize their own potential for academic excellence, leadership, and social and emotional wellness. The mission of the Chelmsford Public Schools is to educate, engage, prepare, and empower well-rounded and knowledgeable learners to PERSEVERE through challenges, demonstrate RESPECT and INTEGRITY in their words and actions, are DEDICATED to their community, and display EMPATHY as global citizens while discovering and pursuing their full potential. This PRIDE-driven culture enables all members of the school community to support the growth and development of students. For more information, please visit www.chelmsfordschools.org.