By Jacob Fisher
April will mark the breaking of ground for a new memorial tree in honor of Richard “Tex” Rivera outside of Rivera’s corner office in the L-Building in April, weather permitting.
Rivera passed away in mid-December of 2020. He was 66 years old.
Rivera began as a student groundskeeper over 47 years ago. He held a multitude of positions over the years, ending his career as Assistant Director of Facility Services, Roads, and Grounds.
He was also known for being very involved with various safety and Alumni organizations and committees at JJC.
According to Tony Lucenti, lead groundskeeper, a committee was formed to decide on the proper way to honor someone that had given so much to the community.
The idea originally began as a memorial similar to those of the engraved paver bricks surrounding the bell tower. These are engraved with various names of people who have contributed to the college.
Instead, they struck upon the idea of planting a tree in his memory. According to Lucenti, the project is in its late planning stage.
Architect Rick Suttle of Reuttiger Tonelli and Associates was brought in to advise which tree would best fit for their purposes.
Suttle offered four different types of trees to pick from. The Gingko tree was close to unanimously chosen as the perfect fit.
Gingko trees are one of the oldest trees in existence and are considered a living fossil. Its roots date back to over 270 million years ago able to withstand extreme temperatures, pollution, and salt.
The committee chose this tree both for its looks and its uncommoness to the area. This decision juxtaposes that of Rivera, being a Joliet native, but the Gingko is rare just like the type of person Rivera was.
The Gingko tree works in tandem with the seasons the Grounds department works through; it perseveres in the hot summer months and will not be baffled by the amount of salt put out in winter months.
The tree grows easily and quickly, over a foot per year until maturity, and can live for three thousand years — a reminder for those to come of the impact that Rivera left on JJC as a school and as a community.