When Dick and Lorraine Jekiel's nephew, Charles Henault, died at age 26 last year, they commissioned a memorial tree in his honor through the Tree Society of Orange County.
"I felt it was the perfect way to symbolize him being here," Jekiel said. "He lived with us for a while and graduated from Villa Park High School in 1981. He loved California and dreamed of coming back here to live."
The Tree Society selected a eucalyptus, which was planted in Eisenhower Park in Orange. Family members attended the planting ceremony, and a certificate was presented to Henault's mother, Sandra, who visited from New Hampshire.
Commemorative trees and other living memorials may be requested to mark life's more cheerful events, too, such as a birth, wedding or anniversary. Both the Orange County Tree Society and the Fullerton Arboretum offer these alternatives to the traditional cards and flowers.
The Tree Society will arrange to have a 15-gallon (6- to 8-foot) tree planted in honor of a person or event in exchange for a $75 donation. The group, which is part of the California ReLeaf program, coordinates local volunteer efforts to plant and protect trees in Orange County. The organization will select a tree suitable for the site of its next planting session, most likely a public park or school. The most commonly planted trees are oak, plane (sycamore) and liquidambar.
A certificate will be sent to whomever you designate to inform of your bequest. Family members and those commissioning the tree may attend the planting ceremony. The society does not provide plaques, however.
The Fullerton Arboretum will record the name of the person honored or memorialized in its Book of Remembrance, a record established by the Friends of the Fullerton Arboretum. Those making the donation (there is no minimum) have the option of indicating which of the arboretum's efforts they would like to assist. For example, if the deceased was fond of nature, you could make a donation to the arboretum's public education effort, which instructs Orange County residents in the enjoyment of living things. A gift to the arboretum's general fund helps it continue to function as a living laboratory for Cal State Fullerton and other Southern California colleges and universities.
For more information, contact the Orange County Tree Society, (714) 449-7170, or the Fullerton Arboretum, (714) 773-3579.
Source: Orange County Tree Society and the Fullerton Arboretum