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A Big Tree, for a Big Life: Arboretum Sequoia Dedicated to Cass Turnbull

Picture of campus

June 15, 2017

By Marie McKinsey, South Seattle College Arboretum Advisory Committee Member

Friends and fmaily of the late Cass Turnbull, founder of Plant Amnesty and TreePAC, gathered on Saturday, June 10, to dedicate a giant sequoia tree in her honor at The Arboretum at South Seattle College.

“We initially thought we would plant a new tree in her honor,” said Jack Bautsch, who serves on both the Arboretum Advisory Committee and the board of Plant Amnesty. “But after some discussion, it was decided that it would be a far better tribute to dedicate a tree that was already established in the Arboretum.” Cass’ husband, John Turnbull, confirmed that giant sequoias were her favorite trees.

Van Bobbitt, a longtime friend of Cass’ and a retired SSC’s faculty member, led the dedication ceremony. He recalled her gift for explaining things in terms everyone could understand. “That’s why I switched to her guide to pruning as the textbook for my class,” Bobbitt said.

Tracey Bernal of Plant Amnesty described Cass as a student in SSC’s Landscape Horticulture program. Tracey was taking classes as part of a job retraining program. She later attended a Plant Amnesty workshop, was recruited as a volunteer and is now on their board of directors. “Cass changed my life,” Bernal said.

Cass was a tireless advocate for the preservation of trees in Seattle. She founded the non-profit Plant Amnesty in 1987 “to end the senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs caused by mal-pruning.” The organization offers classes, workshops and a referral services for homeowners looking for skilled gardeners and arborists. She also founded TreePAC, a political non-profit created to protect and advocate for Seattle’s urban forest.

In response to rapid development in Seattle and the subsequent loss of mature trees, Cass wrote a series of essays which formed the basis for her “No Place For Old Trees” video series. Aimed at policymakers and area residents, these videos explain the value of trees in an urban settings – including providing better health, lower crime rates, cleaner air and environmental protection.

Cass will be greatly missed by the South Seattle College community, our thoughts go out to Cass’ family and friends during this difficult time.