Two trees were planted in honor of T.J. Jenkins and Andrew Sheppard at Shark Stadium. [ Wendy Weitzel | The Star ]
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‘Standing as sentinels’ — Trees planted at football field in remembrance of students lost

It’ll take about three years for the limbs of the two live oaks planted last week at Port St. Joe High School’s Shark Football Stadium to grow together, but when they do, school officials said, the effect will be powerful.

They will form a sort of tunnel, through which the players will run on their way to the field ahead of a game. Coming from the locker room, the gold painted rock, which players touch for luck before the game, is visible in the center of the two trees.

On their way there, Gulf District Schools Superintendent Jim Norton said, the team will be reminded of two of their teammates, who, although they will never again play on the Shark Stadium field, will “indelibly be linked to this tem and this school.”

Each tree was planted in remembrance of two Port St. Joe High School students who passed away following a single-car accident in May.

“Andrew Sheppard and T.J. Jenkins never got to experience their senior seasons, and they never got to walk across the stage at graduation,” Norton said. “Because of that, they will always be linked to this team and to this school, and when the players run between these two trees before a home game, they can be reminded of that.”

Jenkins, 18, would have been entering his senior year at Port St. Joe High School this year. He is remembered not only as a stellar athlete and a strong student, but as a leader within his teams and his school and a young man deeply dedicated to his faith and to his family.

Sheppard, 16, would have been entering his junior year, and his coaches say he was expected to take on leadership roles on his teams in the upcoming seasons.

Those who knew him described Sheppard as being a true problem solver and a hard worker. He was a member of both the school’s football and weightlifting teams and was known for his reserved but kind demeanor and his friendly smile.

Southern live oak trees live to be, on average, well over 60 years, with many specimens making it to be between 200 and 500 years old. 

The two trees planted, which were purchased with donations from Big Fish Construction, 98 Realty, Coca Cola, the Shark 100 Club and private members of the community, are about 15 years old and each stand about 20 feet tall at this time.

“These trees are going to be here for a long time,” said Norton, “maybe even longer than the stadium is here, standing as sentinels for decades to come.”

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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