November 8, 2021 – Letter of hope from Washington state native Susan (Sue) Pace to the Sequoia National Forest – October 9, 2021:

“Almost four years ago, my husband was given five sequoia seeds by a friend, and he soaked them and then planted the one seed that sprouted. A year later, my husband collapsed with a glioblastoma in the right temple area, and four months after that, he died at home, in our condo, surrounded by his family.

I have pampered and repotted that sequoia, and now it is three and a half feet tall. I live north of Seattle, and I have friends who live in our forestland and would be happy to have the tree transplanted on their property, but I thought the moral thing to do would be to ask you for suggestions.

 I am 78 years old and transporting this sweet tree from my home to California is a bit daunting – especially given the COVID-19/Delta variant pandemic. Even though I have been vaxed with the Moderna prescription, of course, I could wait and perhaps meet someone in Oregon, but mostly I would like a suggestion about what to do with this moment of my brave and lovely husband of 46 years.

My father was a schoolteacher who had to have a summer job – for six years, we spent all summer in a cabin at La Wis Wis Campground, right outside Rainer National Park. We had a wood stove, and the battery-operated telephone was for emergencies only. I loved La Wis Wis, and I would love to pass the love of a forest onto our younger generations.”

Upon reading this message, Sequoia National Forest Supervisor Teresa Benson thought about retired Hume Lake District Ranger, Carol Hallacy, and her work as a volunteer for the dog and cat rescue group Getting’ Em Home Transport.  A non-profit group of caring and giving individuals in Washington, Oregon, and California who love animals and transport them for free to their fur-ever homes, foster homes, or rescue.  When Teresa contacted Carol with the idea of her group helping with transporting the sequoia tree from Washington to California, they jumped at the opportunity to help.  

Sue heard about the recent wildfires in the Sequoia National Forest, Giant Sequoia National Monument that killed many Giant Sequoias. She was excited that her husband’s tree would be planted in a place that could help restore hope in one of the impacted Giant Sequoia groves.  

Operations Sequoia - Gretchen Fitzgerald
Operation Sequoia – Gretchen Fitzgerald

On October 15, the tree was picked up from her home in Everett, Washington, by Forest Service employee Diane Bedell.  Diane passed the tree to the first volunteer, and from there, the tree passed from person to person until Carol picked the tree up in northern California for a ride to her home in Dunlap.  On October 16, Teresa connected with Carol and transported the giant sequoia to Forest Ecosystem Staff Officer Gretchen Fitzgerald’s home in Springville.

Team planting the Sequoia
Team planting the Sequoia

The morning of October 23, as low clouds hung over the Western Divide and light mist filled the air, a team of six led by Gretchen set out to find the perfect home for the young sequoia.  In a remote, recent burn scar with dead and down giants, the tree was planted near a freshwater stream within a field of sequoia seedlings.  New life abounds and gives hope in the Giant Sequoia National Monument — its forever home!

And the story is just beginning…