Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - October 5, 2018

"Iíve got my tree, Iím good here"

As far back in history as we can go, trees have represented the continuity of life. A tree sprouts, grows, branches out, and creates fruits or seeds that produce the next generation. When my first husband Jerome died in February 1986, I found comfort in watching the trees that had been dormant all winter come to life again the following spring.

Iíve written several columns about trees - the ash tree at home that created a sense of stability as I recovered from a debilitating disease, the cedar tree planted by my grandfather and his mother on our familyís farm that provided a visible reminder of my family, and William Grimm's oak tree on the Kansas State University campus that pays respect to one of its graduates after his death in Operation Desert Storm.

In 2002, a red oak was planted on the K-State campus to honor Stan Leland and his late wife Jeanne. It was donated by their son Brent and his wife Teresa. She said Stan was happy it was near where his office used to be in Waters Hall:

Both Stan and Jeanne were proud of K-State and loyal season football ticket holders ... Manhattan is where they lived the longest, where Stan worked for many years, where the boys went to school, and where two of them got married ...

Brent said they picked an oak tree so that it would be around for many years. My mother, who was Stanís loving companion after Jeanneís death, was pleased when Stan, Brent and Teresa took her to see the tree in 2005. Both Mom and Stan are gone now, but the tree is still there and that, somehow, eases those losses.

In 2003, daughter Katieís close fourth-grade friend Logan died in a traffic accident. The planting of a tree in the school playground to honor Loganís too-short life and keep her memory alive provided comfort to Katie and her classmates.

A couple of weeks ago, I paused in front of a spruce near the entrance of Dole Hall on campus. I smiled and thought of friend Steve Logback, whose memorial service was one year ago today. He always seemed to have a positive attitude and always had time to stop and chat. The spruce was planted in his memory last spring.

His wife Donna shared what the tree-planting ceremony meant to her:

... It was so wonderful to have so much of the staff able to join us, as I truly believe it was as much for them as it was us. By happy coincidence, we learned that the name of the tree was a Fat Albert Colorado Spruce tree ... This was ironic for two reasons. 1. Steve LOVED Colorado. Went often, spoke of it often, just loved being in the mountains surrounded by all the trees. 2. There was a show from our childhood that had a character named Fat Albert, for which he often quoted, ďHey, hey, Fat Al-bertĒ in the same pronunciation as the show. Needless to say, when I read the name of the tree, it made me smile knowing that it made the circumstances extra special ...

At the ceremony, family members handed out purple and white carnations and little brown cards with a sketch of a tree and ďIn loving memory of Steve LogbackĒ on one side, and the following quote on the other: ďA treeís life is judged not by longevity, rather remembered for the beauty it gave to earth.Ē

Jeffery Morris, vice president for communications and marketing at K-State and Steveís close friend, colleague and boss, said:

To me, the tree serves as a daily reminder of the service Steve provided to our university. I can see it from my office and know that itís an enduring symbol. My practice is to stop every time I walk by, just for a second, to remember Steve. Canít say what it means to other folks, but itís a great way to honor a memory with a living reminder.

Jeff said itís good to be reminded what is important in life - friends and family - and to be sure other things donít get in the way.

Others have sometimes heard me refer to ďmyĒ gingko tree on the campus. Itís not really my tree, of course, but it shades my car from the hot summer sun and provides a beautiful yellow canopy in the autumn. So it struck me when Donna mentioned Steve was also a fan of shade trees.

... Steve always loved shade trees, searching them out whenever we were out in the open for too long under the hot sun ... he would pat whatever tree he had selected to sit under and explain, ďIíve got my tree, Iím good here.Ē He loved to take solace under its branches, and seemed to gain strength from their majesty, so it only seems fitting that we have a tree for him at his favorite place, K-State.

Donna is still dealing with the deep emotions that go along with losing a dearly-beloved spouse only a little more than a year ago. But she is glad Steveís Fat Albert Colorado spruce is there as a living reminder of his legacy:

... I havenít really been able to process all that this tree could mean for me yet, as I am still trying to process all the transition our family has endured over the last several months. But I do know that it makes me smile when I think about the tree being there, forever protecting that dedicated group of individuals who ensure K-State is well represented in the world.

Whether theyíre evergreens that maintain their color throughout the year or those that leaf out in the spring and summer, change to red and gold in the fall, and become dormant in the winter, trees give us protection and beauty. But perhaps their role as a visual reminder of the transient nature of an individualís life, yet the enduring nature of life itself, is even more important.

Left: Stan with hand on his tree, next to friend Edla Freeland (middle) and daughter-in-law Teresa; top-right: planting Fat Albert; bottom-right: (l-r) Logback's daughter Liz smells a purple carnation while wife Donna looks on. His father is holding the flower. Logback's son Logan is at the right of his grandfather and his aunt is at the extreme right.

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