November 17, 2009 in City

Spokane woman’s memorial to daughter grows anew

Three trees planted at downtown Lincoln statue
By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photo

Michael Reichardt of the Spokane Urban Forestry department attaches messages to a newly planted tree by the Lincoln statue in downtown Spokane on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009, while Nancy MacKerrow, standing at right, watches. The planting is part of Susie’s Forest, a memorial to MacKerrow’s daughter Susie Stephens, who died in a car accident in 2002. Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, behind at center, scoops dirt onto the base of another new planting.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Abe Lincoln got some company Tuesday.

Three new European hornbeam trees were planted in a triangular traffic island holding Spokane’s Lincoln statute at Main Avenue and Monroe Street.

The trees are part of an ongoing campaign by a Spokane mother to honor her daughter’s memory.

“I get on a high every time I do this,” said Nancy MacKerrow, whose daughter died in a traffic accident in 2002.

She planted her first three trees in 2003, and has seen nearly 100 more trees planted in the years since. “I just got hooked,” she said.

At each of the tree plantings, MacKerrow brings tiny little cookies to share and biodegradable paper tags that people sign and hang on tree branches, which have the effect of discouraging vandalism, she said.

The past year has been a good one. MacKerrow has seen 22 new trees planted in Spokane along with another 16 trees in other locations around the U.S. and internationally.

Her daughter, Susie Stephens, died after she was struck by a tour bus in St. Louis, Mo., while attending a national conference on bicycle and pedestrian issues.

She had served as director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, MacKerrow said, and was living in Winthrop, Wash., where one of the trees has been planted.

Another tree was planted a few months ago in Victoria, British Columbia, where Stephens had spent time trying to preserve that city’s bicycle program, she said.

MacKerrow calls her plantings the Susie Forest in honor of her daughter’s work.

Some of the trees have been planted through the donations of others who lost loved ones, she said.

Contributions to finance the trees at the Lincoln statue came from the Friends of the Spokane Library, downtown businesses and City Hall.

During Tuesday’s tree-planting ceremony, Mayor Mary Verner grabbed a shovel and pitched dirt over the roots of one of the trees. The mayor said MacKerrow’s work is appreciated. “She’s committed to providing back to this community these wonderful assets,” Verner said.

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