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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Her daughter’s legacy takes firm root

Woman’s tree-planting campaign honors memory of bicycle advocate killed by bus

Michael Reichardt,  of Spokane’s  urban forestry department, attaches messages  to a newly planted tree Tuesday downtown.  (Jesse Tinsley)
Michael Reichardt, of Spokane’s urban forestry department, attaches messages to a newly planted tree Tuesday downtown. (Jesse Tinsley)

Abe Lincoln got some company Tuesday.

Three European hornbeam trees were planted in a triangular traffic island at Main Avenue and Monroe Street where a statue of Lincoln stands.

The trees are part of a Spokane mother’s campaign 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 planting, MacKerrow brings tiny biodegradable paper tags that people can sign and hang on tree branches. She said the tags discourage vandalism.

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

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 was planted.

Another tree was planted a few months ago in Victoria, B.C., where Stephens worked to preserve that city’s bicycle program, she said.

MacKerrow calls her plantings the Susie Forest.

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

Contributions to pay for 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 a tree’s roots.

Verner said MacKerrow’s work is appreciated. “She’s committed to providing back to this community these wonderful assets,” she said.

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