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Former resident donates trees for Hilldale Cemetery

In mid-December, Danville city crews planted 25 trees at Hilldale Cemetery. This fall Nathan Doneghy, a Danville Independent Schools alumnus, landscaper and “tree broker” who lives in London reached out to the city to donate the trees, suggesting they be planted at the cemetery — however, there were no strings attached about where the trees were to be planted. The city received the trees in November.

A young tree stands along a walkway trailing through the grass at Hilldale Cemetery. Nathan Doneghy donated 25 trees to the cemetery, which were planted there in mid-December. – Photo by Olivia Mohr

The location at the cemetery is meaningful to Doneghy because he has friends and family buried there, and he said the area had a deterioration of trees. Instead of donating a check, he and his wife, Donna Davis-Doneghy, wanted to donate something they had grown themselves. And to them, though they don’t currently live in Danville, it’s their town.

“Danville has been good to me,” Doneghy said. “Through my ups and downs of life, Danville has been very good to me.”

Early in his life, a friend of his in Danville helped provide him with clothing and shoes and suggested if Doneghy wanted to pay him back, he should give back to the community, another reason Doneghy feels connected to Danville. He also has seven siblings, a “church home,” and lots of friends in the town.

Doneghy got interested in trees and landscaping in high school, when one of his teachers introduced him to gardening and trees and how they shape a landscape and are good for the environment. Yard work was also a good way to make money, he said.

This donation of trees to the cemetery isn’t his first in the community. In April 2019 he donated trees to Edna L. Toliver Intermediate School, something that meant a lot to him partially because he used to do yard work for the past principal who was the school’s namesake. He also has donated trees to his church, First Baptist Church – 2nd and Walnut, in memory of his mother.

“Any time we have a chance to give, particularly with trees, and watch them grow, we’re going to do that,” he said.

For the trees donated to the cemetery, he came up with the idea to give people the option to “adopt” a tree for $100 for their loved one and have their name put on a plaque that would be installed next to the tree. The money could go to a cemetery fund or to Centre College professor Beau Weston’s foundation that solicits funds from within the community to purchase trees and seeks a matching grant from Kentucky Utilities each year, with the city doing the planting and maintenance.

Doneghy said he wants to help Weston provide about 50 trees to Danville a year, something he hopes is on the horizon. He has also spoken to city manager Earl Coffey about continuing a relationship with the city in the future, not only supporting landscaping plans at city-maintained cemeteries but also potentially other programs of the city, like streetscape projects, parks and providing shade for pedestrian trails and sidewalks.

“Anything Donna and I can do to further the growth of Danville with the trees, and keep the streets beautiful, then we will donate whatever we have to,” Doneghy said.

Doneghy said he would like to see the trees maintained, which he hopes the city will do well. Coffey said he hopes efforts to bring more trees to Danville through people like Doneghy and Weston will continue.

“The hope is that we can continue the effort of new tree planting through support of citizens such as Mr. Doneghy who recognize the need to give back to the community,” Coffey said in an email. “By expanding the access to trees of various varieties the process of providing new plantings throughout the community can be improved.”