|Arlington, VA||June 11, 2004|
Just north of the Military Women’s Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, a brick walkway leads to the burial site of the first presidential couple interred on the grounds: William Howard Taft and Helen Herron Taft. Though the trees that surround her place of rest produce remarkable foliage in the fall, the plant life Mrs. Taft is best associated with are across the Potomac River. She and author Eliza Scidmore were primarily responsible for the planting of the national capital’s Japanese cherry blossoms. Typically 1.5 million people flood the Tidal Basin each spring when the trees are in bloom.
I did not see the Tafts during my first time in Arlington in summer 2003, but did pay my respects to them on my second journey there in June 2004. I have revisited them numerous times since.
Gold leaf paint makes the inscription on the reddish granite monument pop. Helen Taft commissioned sculptor James Earle Fraser to create the memorial. Made of granite from the Stony Creek village in Branford, Connecticut, it stands over 14 feet tall. The monument was finished in 1932, two years after William Howard Taft’s death. The project cost the Taft family a sum of $10,000.
Taft’s small, rectangular gravestone is inscribed with her initials, H.H.T. Likewise, her husband’s initials — W.H.T. — mark his precise burial site in the plot.
Arlington National Cemetery. “Presidential William Howard Taft Memorial Grave.” Accessed April 25, 2022. https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Monuments-and-Memorials/President-William-H-Taft-Gravesite.
Samenow, Jason. “Can you safely visit the cherry blossoms amid the coronavirus crisis?” Washington Post. March 18, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/03/18/cherry-blossoms-coronavirus/.