Last week was Bike to Work Week and it was the perfect time to remember Susie Stephens and celebrate her life.
Anyone who ever met Susie Stephens would remember her. Her personality was that vibrant. Susie was the second Executive Director for Washington Bikes, the first ED for the Thunderhead Alliance (now the Alliance for Biking & Walking) and a bicycle advocate extraordinaire. She was killed in 2002 as she legally crossed a street in St Louis.
On a sunny morning last week, the Bicycle Alliance staff gathered on Seattle’s Burke Gilman Trail near Golden Gardens to plant a tree in her memory. We were joined by City Councilmember Richard Conlin, Susie’s mother Nancy MacKerrow, and a group of friends who had known Susie. We shared memories of Susie, laughed and shed a few tears, and wrote messages – treegrams – that were attached to the scarlet oak that was planted in her memory.
Nancy explained that she chose to remember Susie by planting a tree in her memory every year. The idea caught on and others who knew Susie or knew of her also planted trees for her and, before long, a Susie Forest was growing. This forest is Nancy’s living legacy to her daughter.
Planting a tree at this location felt bittersweet to me. In 1994, shortly after Susie took the helm of the Bicycle Alliance, we led a community walk along the railroad corridor in Ballard and encouraged folks to envision the Burke Gilman Trail making its way through their neighborhood on its way to Golden Gardens Park. That walk launched the formation of the Friends of Burke Gilman Trail. Although a missing link of this trail still exists, the segment of trail where we planted the Susie tree was not around in her lifetime.
Happy trails, Susie.
You can read a previous post about Susie here.