Bridge of Flowers gardener becomes U.S. citizen

  • Elliston Bingham of Shelburne Falls has become a U.S. citizen. He is pictured on the Bridge of Flowers where he works part-time as assistant gardener. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Elliston Bingham of Shelburne Falls has become a U.S. citizen. He is pictured on the Bridge of Flowers where he works part-time as assistant gardener. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/1/2020 2:29:44 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — When the Bridge of Flowers didn’t open in April as it traditionally does each spring, as a result of the pandemic, it disappointed locals and visitors. But now, as the gardens are put to bed for the winter, the committee that oversees the popular, colorful landmark says there are two bright spots worth celebrating.

Bridge of Flowers Committee member Carol Angus said because head gardener Carol DeLorenzo and assistant gardener Elliston Bingham, both part-time salaried employees, continued to maintain the gardens throughout the growing season, the Bridge of Flowers will be ready to bloom again in the spring, hopefully welcoming visitors back, if the pandemic is under control.

The second bit of good news, Angus said, is that Bingham, a 56-year-old from Jamaica, recently became a citizen of the United States.

“One of my first acts as a citizen was to vote,” Bingham said. “I voted early.”

Bingham said he studied on and off for a year to become a citizen, getting help from three women: his wife, her mother and her grandmother. They’d ask him questions as they helped him study.

“It feels so good to be a U.S. citizen,” he said. “There is no better place than America. Here there is opportunity. ‘We the people.’ We do it — we make the country good.”

Bingham has been working as a part-time employee of the Bridge of Flowers for more than five years.

“He loves all things that grow, great and small, and they love him back,” Bridge of Flowers Committee Chair Annette Szpila said. “He’s a much-beloved figure in this community.”

Szpila added that Bingham often stops by to tend the gardens on weekends. He lives with his wife, Kaydee, in Shelburne Falls and also finds time for other interests, including raising a herd of 16 goats and maintaining his own vegetable garden. On Saturday mornings throughout the spring, summer and fall, he sells bars of his homemade goat milk soap and produce from his vegetable garden at the Greenfield Farmers Market.

Bingham also helps friends and neighbors with their plants when he’s not pruning and weeding on the Bridge of Flowers.

“He’s an ambassador of good will at large,” DeLorenzo said. “Elliston’s dedication to the Bridge of Flowers extends to the community that he now calls home. He’s a person always ready to lend a helping hand, and he represents the best of what a community, and this country, aspires to be.”

DeLorenzo said the community is proud of Bingham, and happy to now call him a fellow citizen. Besides Bingham and DeLorenzo, all other maintenance of the 91-year-old repurposed trolley bridge is overseen by the volunteer committee under the auspices of the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.


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