The trunk of the Norway maple always cut your focus short on the tree itself and surrounding plantings. Now, the eye wanders to the bed on the north side of the veggie garden and the woods, wetland and ridge beyond.
We lost Lucas Wooster, a dear friend and member of the greater horticulture family at Cornell, who died unexpectedly Sunday.
Lucas was finishing up his PhD. He was working on developing drought-tolerant maples that could thrive under tough urban environments. I worked most directly with him as a key person in the development of the Woody Plants Database website at Cornell. But where I really got to know him and see him at his best was in his role as a teaching assistant in the ‘Creating the Urban Eden’ course taught by Nina Bassuk and Peter Trowbridge.
The course is essentially a woody plant materials course, but oh so much more. Every year student work out a design for an area on campus and then install the planting. It’s hands-on learning at it’s best. And every spring, I’m out there with my camera trying to capture what I think is the best thing that ever came to the Cornell campus.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised that when Nina asked me to pull together some pictures of Lucas for his memorial service that I had scores of them that I really didn’t remember taking. But there he is in his element, teaching the next generation how to plant and care for trees. Lucas planting. Lucas shoveling mulch. Lucas chuckling at the students playing hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. And the only one with the sense to drink Guiness instead of green beer on St. Patrick’s Day.
Lucas was funny. He was smart. He worked hard but never took himself or his work too seriously. We miss him terribly.