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Written by: John Hushagen
BOB MAZANY was honorably discharged from the US Army in the fall of 1947, not long after the end of the WWII. Bob returned to his native Ohio and in early 1948, at age 19, he got his first tree work job with Davey Tree. Like all of us, Bob started out dragging brush, but because of his work ethic and his high school gymnastics background, he was soon climbing. While in Ohio he took the opportunity to attend the Davey training institute and in 1950 he headed to Texas to start Davey’s line clearing program. In those days our organization was known as the National Shade Tree Conference and men who climbed and pruned or removed trees were called tree surgeons. While in Texas, Bob went to parties and when folks he met discussed their occupations, Bob would say: “See these hands? They’re a surgeon’s hands.” Following an ooh and ahh period, Bob would add, “Yeah, tree surgeon’s hands.” (Bob didn’t really do this. I made it up.)
After 10 years with Davey in Texas, Bob moved with his growing family to Eugene, Oregon, to become the head of Eugene’s fledgling Horticulture and Arboriculture programs, with some supervision of the zoo animals thrown in. He still climbed and pruned trees, but mostly he trained and supervised. In 1961, Bob joined the ISA Western Chapter.
BILL OWEN grew up in Portland and served with the U.S. Marines in WWII. Upon discharge he enrolled at Lewis and Clark College where he earned a degree in English, with teaching credentials, in 1953. Bill taught for a few years at Lincoln High School, earned a master’s degree, and later joined General Spray Service, the successful company that his father had founded in 1924. Bill and his wife, Bobbi, raised a family and grew the business, eventually changing the name to General Tree Service. Sometime in the early 1960’s Bill joined the Western Chapter and eventually met Bob.
In his own right, Bill became a towering figure in arboriculture and served as president of the National Arborist Association. He worked to raise the standards of tree care in Oregon and showed tree climbers and ground pruners how to be proud professionals. When asked how he dealt with his cheaper and less qualified competitors, he said: “I was here when they came, and I will be here when they are gone.” Bill sold General Tree Service to long-time employee, John Landon, in 1985, and continued to work as a highly respected consulting arborist for nearly 20 years. Bill passed away in 2005.
Bob left the City of Eugene in early 1976, spent some time in New Zealand as a consultant to the national gymnastics team, and then became the grounds manager for Techtroniks in 1977. He continued to work as a consultant and trainer, and is still working as a consultant at age 91. Through the 70’s and 80’s Bob and Bill worked to set higher standards for proper tree care in the PNW and their reputations became well known throughout the U.S. and Canada.
DAN DOUGLAS grew up in Everett and graduated from Washington State University in 1969 with a degree in Ornamental Horticulture. Somehow he didn’t get drafted as the War in VietNam was raging, but instead he went to work for Molbak’s Nursery in Woodinville, Wa. Over the next few years Dan worked as a gardener/ horticulturist for the Mukilteo School District, the City of Everett, Edmonds Community College, and the State Reformatory at Monroe. In 1977 Dan began his horticulture teaching career at Edmonds Community College.
MARVIN BLACK was well-known in the Oregon nursery industry when in 1971 he moved to Seattle to become the city arborist. Thousands of the now nearly 50-year-old trees that line Seattle’s major streets are a result of Marvin’s early efforts. In the mid-70’s, Marvin and Dan got to know each other and began to organize tree workshops. Together with Dan’s wife, Evie, they soon planned and hosted a two-day pre-ISA chapter seminar in Seattle in 1977, which likely included Bob, Bill, and Steve Goetz from Oregon, and Robin Gardner, Gerry Chaster, and Dr. John Neill from BC. This group was the first to bring Alex Shigo to the PNW. During these years, Bob, Bill, and Marvin continued to lobby Keith Davey from the Western chapter to help form a PNW chapter.
More and more arborists attended these informal seminars. Excitement to have our own chapter was building in 1979, and in the fall of 1980 the approval to form a new chapter had come, and 50-75 arborists from the three regions met in Port Townsend and agreed with words and money to make the chapter official. Notable charter members include: From Oregon: Bill and Bob, John Good, Rich Holmes, Greg Paulson, Steve Greenberg, Stephen Peacock, Doug Dawes, Ray Collier, Terrill Collier, Gary Hill, Brain McNerney, and Steve Goetz. From Washington: Dan Douglas, Marvin Black, Kim Reich, Joe Witt and Brian Mulligan. From British Columbia: Robin Gardner, Barry Elliott, Susan Munro, Gerry Chaster, John Neill, Susan Murray, Ron Carter, and Clive Justice. From elsewhere: Don Blair, Bob Berlin, Alex Wynstra, and David Stevens.
1980’S ANNUAL TRAINING CONFERENCES
The early chapter boards decided to rotate the ATC from Washington to Oregon to BC. The 1982 conference was in Saanich, BC, ’83 was Portland, ’84 was Seattle, and back to BC in ’85. The early chapter governing boards were made up of risk takers, so in 1984, four years after our founding, the International approved the fledgling chapter’s bid to host the 1988 worldwide conference in Vancouver, BC. Leadership was excellent and the conference was well attended and successful.
EARLY ARBORIST CERTIFICATION
In 1989, Charter member, Susan Murray was a professor in the school of horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University near Vancouver, B.C. As part of her Masters’ thesis requirement, Susan developed a written arborist certification exam. The Western chapter had a certified arborist exam for several years, and PNW chapter leaders were eager to bring certification to the region. Ms. Murray offered her exam to the chapter, and over the following year, a committee representing the three regions, reviewed the exam question by question to make it ready to offer to PNW arborists. The first PNW Certified Arborist exam was offered at the 1991 ATC in Portland.
GROWTH IN THE 1990’S
Following the 1990 ATC held in Everett, we were ecstatic to have cleared around $10K. I became chapter president that year and we were still an all-volunteer organization. Our own certification program began the following year, and in the spring of 1992 the chapter hired Lynnette Comai as its first part-time executive director. That same year the International began its own certification program systemwide. With certification as the driving force, the chapter grew from 200 members in 1992 to over 600 when Lynette moved on in 1995.
Rose George from Seattle served as our executive director from 1995-97. Paul Ries, who had moved to Oregon in the early 90’s, and who served many years on the PNW board and as the chapter rep to the international, took over as executive director. In 1998, he initially ran the chapter out of his home office in Salem, employing his teenage daughter part-time. Paul established the Silverton office in 1999 and brought on Dana Hatley as executive assistant. Paul built up the arborist education program and expanded its reach beyond the I-5 corridor. Membership grew rapidly, and Idaho arborists chose to leave the Rocky Mountain chapter and join us. Membership was up to 1200 when Patty Williams became the executive director in early 2002, and she has done tremendous work all these years and helped this organization grow to become one of the most vibrant and forward-thinking chapters in the world. PNW-ISA's budget grew to several hundred thousand dollars a year and at its peak had over 2,000 chapter members and 3,072 Certified Arborists within our region.
I joined the ISA and this chapter in 1984, which puts me in a fairly small group of long time members. I met both Bob and Bill shortly after I joined, followed by Stephen Peacock and Steve Goetz. I met Dan Douglas and Kim Reich, and many of the Canadian founders after I moved to Seattle in 1985.
The chapter grew rapidly and arborists throughout the region could feel the growing respect for our profession, but a tragedy occurred on my watch that tested us all. At the Field Day in a Portland park in the fall of 1991, an arborist from the City of Portland crew was ascending a cottonwood tree to help demonstrate an aerial rescue. He started up the tree, un-belayed, using the body thrust climbing method. As he reached the first branch, he lost his grip during this scramble move and fell 30’ to the ground, hit his head on an exposed root, and died in front of 30-40 bystanders.
As the chapter president it was my job to borrow a clunky cell phone to call the home office and tell Bill Kruidenier, the executive director that we’d just had someone killed at our Field Day. As you can imagine, the rest of the Field Day fizzled out and the incident cast a pall over the rest of the conference. And thus began two of the worst days of my life. Alone in my room that Monday afternoon, I first called my wife in Seattle and then a Portland therapist that I’d worked with a few years earlier, and they talked me off the ledge. At the banquet the next night we did our best to honor our fallen arborist brother. I believe this chapter survived this horrible event because people who care for trees, care deeply about each other.
I know that much of what I have been able to do is because I stood on the shoulders of Bob and Bill much like they stood on the shoulders of the Davey family and Bill’s father. Many of you in this room have stood on your mentors’ shoulders, and someday you will give a boost to those arborists who come to you and say: I want to know what you know.
We’ve built a great organization over the last 40 years and we should all be proud. But our work is more important than ever. Let us never forget the reason we are here is because we are passionate about taking care of trees. The world needs more trees like never before. In fact, trees may prove to be critical to the survival of the planet. Bill Owen spent decades caring about trees and one of his most memorable statements was: “I am a friend of the trees, and I speak for the them because they are unable to speak for themselves.” Recently, I asked Bob Mazany, if he had to sum up his 71 year career in arboriculture in one sentence, what would he say. Bob replied, “I’m proud that because of my life’s work, there are more trees here today because of me, than in spite of me.” Well said, Bob and Bill, and a job well done Dan, Marvin, and all of our founders. Thank you all for being here and for all that you have and continue to do for our industry.