POUGHKEEPSIE – Theo “Tree” Arrington was considered by many to be larger than life. The founder of REAL Skills Network passed away in 2020 and was honored Saturday at the Family Partnership Center in Poughkeepsie.
In 2008, Arrington founded REAL Skills Network, Inc., the organization that provides after-school and summer initiatives for Poughkeepsie youth. REAL Skills Network, Inc. now provides a variety of initiatives for elementary, middle, and high school students that promote academic progression and positive peer interactions.
Arrington’s memory was recognized with a mural in the lobby of the Family Partnership Center (FPC) in front of a crowd of dozens of supporters, elected officials, and friends during a brief ceremony that coincided with Juneteenththis year. “Tree didn’t celebrate any holidays except for Juneteenth,” said his widow, Sharon.
At the ceremony, Brian Doyle, CEO of Family Services Inc., the operator of the FPC, remembered Tree as “A maverick and titan of the Poughkeepsie community”. Doyle’s description of Arrington, including his relentless quest for funding of REAL Skills was echoed by officials that included NYS Senator Sue Serino, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, and Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison.
“Tree is responsible for having a positive influence on hundreds of Poughkeepsie kids that will never be forgotten,” said Serino. Molinaro chose the memorial service to announce that Dutchess County will be recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday beginning in 2022. The date marking the end of slavery was a celebration for Arrington, and he was relentless in educating everyone about the importance of the date. “Tree never missed an opportunity to make people aware of the significance of Juneteenth and it is only fitting to have a memorial in his honor on this historical date,” said Molinaro. He chose the gathering to announce say “This day of liberation will removing forward with the official dedication of this holiday next year,” to the applause of everyone in attendance.
Describing Arrington as an imposing figure was fitting of his nickname, Rolison said “Tree was truly larger than life and his imposing figure was matched by his vigorous advocacy for Poughkeepsie’s children. It was impossible to say “no” when Tree asked for help.”
“REAL Skills was Tree’s calling,” said his widow, Sharon Arrington. “When he told me of his plan many years ago, I supported it because I knew he had his mind made up. His dream of REAL Skills has been a huge impact on kids in the city, which is what he envisioned.”
The mural was commissioned by Family Services, Inc. with the assistance of stakeholders including Sun Valley Health, City Councilwoman Yvonne Flowers, her brother Frankie, and several others. Both Yvonne and Frankie Flowers are credited with continuing the legacy of their father, John Flowers, known for creating numerous programs designed to help the less fortunate members of the Poughkeepsie community. The mural was painted by well-known artist Nestor Madalengoitia.