Today marks four months and three days since my sister, Dorothy, died in a car accident. Early this morning, my brother-in-law, Gary, sent an email out to all of our family, about a memorial for Dorothy that has just been completed. With his permission, I’m posting his email verbatim, along with many of the photos he also sent.
If I had spent a lifetime searching, I couldn’t have come up with a more fitting memorial for my sister.
Paul [Dorothy and Gary's son] and I had an incredible experience last night. After two weeks of talking and planning, we got a memorial tree for Dorothy planted at St. Philips church. The story behind the tree is the incredible part.
It is a Norway Maple that was cloned from the National Champion Norway Maple (biggest in size, age, etc.) in Empire, Michigan, just about 30 miles north of Frankfort. The Milarch Nursery, namely David Milarch and his sons Jared and Jake, started the Champion Tree Project about 12 years ago to perpetuate and sustain the genetic qualities of the largest and oldest surviving trees of each species. They take cuttings and buds from the Champion trees and send them out to agricultural labs for cellular propagation and starting. Then they get the small clones back and grow them carefully.
I can’t believe I was able to get one of these trees, especially since this one was the last of the original clones that started the project 12 years ago. My guess is that David wanted to see one of these original clones go to somewhere close so he could visit it and show his grandchildren over the years. He is quite an interesting person, third generation nurseryman, and co-founder of the Champion Tree Project International.
Anyway, this is an extraordinary tree for an extraordinary wife, mother, sister, daughter, cousin. I think Dorothy would approve. She and I had heard David Milarch talk at Master Gardener functions in the past – that’s how we knew of the Project. See the web site at http://www.championtrees.org/forests.htm
So last night, we met David, his son Jake, and Jake’s wife Julie at St. Philips to plant the Norway Maple. We had to change the site we originally selected – it ended up being too close to the septic tanks for future root growth. The current site is about 30 feet below the back fence of the Memorial Garden where Dorothy is going to be buried on August 18th. It is a nice setting, as you can see, and is kitty-corner from another memorial tree, a Red Maple.
Pictures show the sequence from delivery, digging, setting, and watering in (which Paul did). We have to give the tree 20 gallons of water twice a week for 2 years, three to four times if a hot, dry summer. I also have to top-dress with compost and mulch.
I am getting a plaque made, and probably mounted on a rock for the base of the tree. Something like,
In memory of Dorothy D. Michalek.
This Norway Maple is a clone of the
Champion tree in Empire, Michigan,
part of the Champion Tree Project International
Love to you all,
Paul and Gary
Where else, Oh Best Beloved, have trees from the Champion Tree Project been used?
You’ll find them at the Pentagon Memorial and the World Trade Center, planted as living memorials for those lost in the terrorist attacts of 9/11.
I hope those families, too, find the thought of a tree that will live for hundreds of years, memorializing their lost ones, comforting.
We will always love you, Dorothy.
The Champion Tree Project’s Norway Maple arrives, riding on a special flatbed trailer that protects it during transport. (Pictured: Jake Milarch and his wife, Julie.
The Milarchs (pictured from left to right: Julie, David and Jake) prepare the site for the Dorothy D. Michalek Memorial Norway Maple Champion Tree.
Placing the tree into its new site. (Pictured from left to right: Julie, Jake and David Milarch)
Safely in! (pictured: David Milarch and Julie Milarch)
The Memorial Champion Norway Maple in its new site. (Pictured from left to right: Paul (Dorothy and Gary’s son), David Milarch and (behind the tree) Julie Milarch)
Paul (Dorothy and Gary’s son) watering in the memorial tree.
The Dorothy D. Michalek Memorial Champion Norway Maple (pictured from left to right: Gary Michalek (Dorothy’s husband), Jake Milarch, Paul Michalek (Dorothy and Gary’s son), David Milarch and Julie Milarch)