Leaving a remembrance: Popular Centre Region Parks and Rec tree program passes milestone

Trees throughout parks in the region are donated in honor or community members, including this one in memory of Robert E. Tudek.
Trees throughout parks in the region are donated in honor or community members, including this one in memory of Robert E. Tudek. CDT photo

Skye Pilato loved reading books under the cool shade of a tree.

Her father, muralist Michael Pilato, said it was fitting that donors Blake and Linda Gall would want a tree planted in her memory.

“That’s so beautiful,” he said. “How touching and beautiful and fitting is that? Skye was all about nature. She would love this so much.”

The Galls’ donation was a milestone for the Centre Region Parks and Recreation’s Remembrance Tree Program, because it was the 400th donation of a tree, which will be planted in Millbrook Marsh Nature Center to honor Skye, a State College native who died Sept. 30 at the age of 19.

CRPR launched the program in 1994, and people can donate $350 to $500 for a tree to be planted in someone’s honor or memory. About 20 trees are planted every spring, and donors can be there to see them planted.

“What’s always been fun about this is that we get donations for all kinds of different reasons,” CRPR director Ron Woodhead said. “We have people donate to honor friends, families and pets, and we get people that do it for someone’s birthday or anniversaries and other life events. It runs the whole gamut.”

Suzanne Nuss, of Ferguson Township, had a tree planted for her husband’s 75th birthday last year.

“When you get to be our age you don’t need stuff anymore, and since he taught about plants and trees I thought it’d be a nice thing to do,” she said. “We watched them put it in the ground, and we’re looking forward to seeing how big it’ll get.”

Donors can select where and what kind of tree is planted; there are about 30 varieties to choose from.

Bob Nuss, a retired professor of ornamental horticulture at Penn State, chose a bur oak tree to be planted in Tudek Park.

“It caught my eye when we selected it, because it has very few problems with insects and diseases,” Bob Nuss said. “You don’t see too many of them anymore, but they’ll grow for a long time, probably 40 to 50 years, and they’ll get really tall.”

Bernd Brandstatter, of Bellefonte, and his sister Uta Brandstatter, of Asheville N.C., had four trees planted and a bench built last spring in memory of their mother, Gundi, who died in 2013.

“It was my sister’s idea to do this, because she knew someone who had done this before,” Bernd Brandstatter said. “We got a lot of help from the community, too, and asked people to donate to Centre Region Parks and Recreation to go toward the trees and bench.”

He said they periodically visit the bench and two dogwood trees by Tudek Park’s butterfly garden, a spot their mother loved to visit when she walked on the park’s trails.

The other two trees, a redbud and tulip poplar, are in the park’s arboretum.

“Our mom was a really avid gardener, and she always had a beautiful garden,” Brandstatter said. “She had rheumatoid arthritis, and that never stopped her, so I don’t think there would be a better way to remember our mom. It’s a place that we can go to now for solidarity and to remember her. We’ll always have that spot.”

CRPR’s board and the Patton Township Recreation Board donated to have a tree and bench placed in Circleville Park in memory of Tim Solic, whose mother, Cindy, has worked on both boards. Tim Solic died of cancer in 2005. A Japanese lilac tree was planted in his memory later that fall.

“They had a little ceremony at the tree planting, and it was actually very special,” Cindy Solic, of Patton Township, said. “It’s a place we frequent a lot, and it’s turned into a very special place for us personally.”

Woodhead said there will be at least seven trees planted this spring, bringing the total to 405.

CRPR launched a similar program called My Veteran My Hero Tribute Trees last year to honor those who have served in the military. Trees in the program will be planted in Oak Hall Regional Park, which will open in May.

Woodhead and his wife, Ann, had a tree planted to honor his father, Harold Woodhead Sr., because he served in the Navy in World War II.

“We had another one for him and my daughter’s wedding in the other program, but the third is to honor his service,” Woodhead said. “I think what you find with every donation is that someone deserved to be honored in some way. My dad deserved to be honored as a father and a veteran. I go stand by that tree and look out at the whole Centre Region, and it’s a truly inspirational feeling, and I think people feel the same way about their trees.”