On April 24, Barbara Taddeo honored Earth Day, which is nationally observed on April 22, while also honoring the passing of her dear friend, Vera Bradley Frass. For the past 16 years, it’s become a bittersweet tradition for Taddeo to plant remembrance trees after loved ones have passed away. So in remembrance of her close family friend, Vera, who passed away on Jan. 28 of this year, Taddeo planted a fig tree in her honor.
“Vera was 98 years old and sharp as a tac when she passed,” Taddeo said of the former Gilroy resident (who she also called her “second mother”).
The little known tradition of remembrance trees, which Taddeo explained is commonly done in other countries, began in the summer of 2005, just months after she moved to Hollister. After a friend of hers passed away, mourners received a small pine tree in his honor. She planted it on her 5-acre property along the fence line in her front yard.
“I took that in mind, and began planting fruit trees in memory of friends and family who had passed,” Taddeo explained. “I will take their family out for lunch or dinner, and after we plant a tree in honor of the person who died. Each year, I send pictures to the family and share the fruit from that tree with them as a remembrance.” Taddeo now has 23 trees planted along that fence line, which now includes Vera’s.
She allows the family of the departed to choose the fruit tree of their choosing for their beloved. So now, Taddeo’s property has a variety of fruit trees: two types of lemon, seven types of apple, orange, cherry, pear, plums and prune trees.
When deciding what kind of tree to plant for Vera, Taddeo had the opportunity to ask Vera, herself, what kind of tree she would like. “Vera and I talked every day during the lockdown,” Taddeo explained. “Vera wanted a fig tree.”
Taddeo wants to encourage locals to begin planting trees—as she has become disheartened by the loss of the agricultural land around her, that is now turning into home developments.
“With all these new houses going in, I see these concrete jungles,” Taddeo said. “We’re losing the agricultural end of San Benito County—which is why I moved here. It is my goal that each family plant at least one fruit tree in memory of someone in their yard. This would help replace so many trees that have been lost [in our county]. It will also help future generations understand the importance of fruit trees, and give them something fresh to eat that has not come from a grocery store. We can bring oxygen and bring trees into this county, instead of [bringing] cement gardens.”
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