Trees for Love | Planting Seedlings to Remember Those We Lost to Covid

Washington (GGM) Analysis | September 15, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise

On October 24, 2020, when covid was ramping up for another major spike, both physical and economic, Gallant Gold Media hosted a free distribution of native redbud and button bush seedlings, at Parking Lot P at George Mason University in Fairfax Virginia. The campaign was called Trees for Love and the seedlings were being planted to remember those we lost to covid in our communities. Fairfax ReLeaf supplied the free seedlings. The Fairfax Tree Commission was an essential liaison that helped get everything off the ground, which enabled the free seedling distribution to come to fruition by connecting the various organizations while in the middle of a pandemic. 

Gallant Gold Media’s Trees for Love Campaign. Planting trees to remember those we lost to covid. Funded by Fairfax City Reconnect Reimbursement Grant.

It takes a village.

This memorable campaign ended up being the largest community tree planting success in the state of Virginia in 2020. The Burke Centre Conservancy was the largest group of planters, distributing 146 Fairfax ReLeaf free seedlings to their Clusters and residences. The rest of the redbud and button bush seedlings were claimed by Northern Virginia residents, many of whom were moved by friends and family who’d been lost to covid and were searching to find a meaningful way to honor their memory. We’re running this story again, after the little seedlings began waking up this spring in their new homes, and stretched their tiny limbs while reaching for the sun and are now another year older. More than 169 million Americans, 51 percent of population, are fully vaccinated.

As exciting as this may be, the pandemic will never be over for those connected to the 664,000 Americans who lost their lives to covid. Many family and friends are struggling with the heavy loss. Others are coping in whatever way they deem works best for them, for some, this is through nature, and planting trees to remember their loved ones.

Burke Centre Conservancy are big tree planters, here’s a photo from 2019

One such Fairfax County resident is Dawn Zimmerman. Dawn, a Virginia State licensed professional counselor, operating her solo practice Imago Dei Counseling in Fairfax City, attributes her love of nature and gardening and the outdoors to her grandfather, a midwest farmer, as well as spending her childhood in Thailand. Although born in metro Washington DC, Dawn’s father was a State Department Foreign Service Officer. From a young age Dawn seems to have become well-acquainted with the understanding of how important it is to connect with others in our community and let them know we care, especially during a crisis.

Whether it’s Dawn’s close connection to the State Department, her career as a counselor, or her passion for nature, Dawn felt compelled to enrich Northern Virginia with multiple Virginia Native redbuds and button bushes to honor the five family and friends she’s lost to Covid. Dawn wanted us to know more than just their names though, she was eager to share their stories.

Ron Ontko: Dawn’s honorary uncle, passed away from Covid related complications on April 2, 2020 in Hendersonville, NC. He was 89 years old. Ron and his wife Carol, met in Wisconsin, and after college, while in a young couples group at Grace Lutheran Church in Washington, DC,  became good friends with Dawn’s parents. The two couples went on to become lifelong friends. Ron was an avid photographer and devoted ‘Skins fan, but his career was spent in public service. After graduating high school, Ron served in the United States Air Force, before he returned to school. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Russian Studies from the University of Wisconsin and then his master’s degree in international law from George Washington University. From there, Ron worked for the NSA, the United States Senate, and the US State Department, which is quite a remarkable resume. Ron Ontko was a Freemason and a Shiner, participating in fundraising for numerous children’s charities. He is survived by his wife Carol of 62 years, as well as his son, Andrew, and daughter, Julie.

Ron Ontko and his wife Carol

Jack “Zeke” Zimmerman: Zeke is Dawn’s uncle, who was lost to Covid related pneumonia on October 21, 2020 at aged 86 in Frederick, MD. Survived by wife Lynn, sons Steve (Andrea) and grandsons Eric and Mark of Memphis, TN; Paul of Wilmington, DE and was predeceased by son John, Silver Spring, MD.  Also survived by Mary Lee Zimmerman, his first wife and the mother of their three sons; Daughter-in-Law Christie (widow of John) and grandchildren John Paul “JP” and Maria. 

Uncle Zeke

The following is a loving tribute written by Zeke’s grandson, Mark Zimmerman:
Zeke Zimmerman was known to many as the “Godfather of DC Metropolitan Area Sandlot Basketball.”  GrandJack lived his life around basketball. He grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and fielded basketball teams. He formed teams from players that he would recruit from across the country. Around 1950, having teams with multiple races was unprecedented. My grandfather did not judge a player based on his skin color, but on his basketball ability. Jack was known as Zeke Zimmerman in the D.C. area. He formed a team called “Zeke’s All-Stars.” This was the first team that had both black and white players in the D.C. area. Because my grandfather did not judge a player based on his race, many black basketball players were able to go to college for basketball or even the NBA. A couple of years ago, he gave me a jersey from the 1950 Zeke’s All-Stars team. This jersey is a symbol of my family’s value of inclusion. It did not matter which race wore this specific jersey. The only thing that mattered was that my grandfather saw talent in that young man, and he wanted to help. My family still holds the values of inclusion and equality in our everyday lives, as we do not judge people based on their skin tone, but on their personality.

Redbud and button bush seedlings planted to remember Zeke Zimerman and Ron Ontko

Below is a State Department obituary with a few extra details provided by Dawn:
Patrick “David” Husar, 67, died May 9, in Arlington, VA. David was born in Lorain, Ohio located on Lake Erie and 30 miles West of Cleveland. At University of Kentucky, where David majored in history, one of his professors encouraged him to consider a career with the Foreign Service. Joining in 1976, Husar served as a consular officer at posts in Pakistan, India, and the Philippines before transitioning to Civil Service. He retired in 2016 and enjoyed long walks around the Washington area, was an avid reader, and was dedicated to his faith. He is survived by his wife, Jonahlyn; a brother Michael; and extended family in the Philippines.

David and Jonalyn Husar
David and Jonalyn Husar

Daniel Lee: Spending a few minutes on Google images to view the architectural designs that Daniel Lee graced upon all of us here in the United States, is sure to inspire. And inspiration is certainly the impulse Mr. Lee appears to have been striving for when he graduated from the Mississippi School of Architecture in 1981 and began his career in classical architecture as an intern with Allen Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg is one of the premier classical architects of the twenty-first century. The son of Protestant missionaries, Mr. Lee’s love of classical architecture sprung from his childhood in Paris, France, surrounded by neoclassical landmarks erected during the reign of Louis XIV and that continued all the way through Louis XVI. Many of us here in Virginia are endowed with an inherent appreciation for classical architecture, which dates back to the founding of our most historic cities. So it’s with great sadness that we lost Mr. Lee to Covid on August 17, 2020, at age 64. Mr. Lee is survived by his wife of 40 years, Leonor Lee, his two sons, Stephen and Christopher, and two daughters, Susanne and Katherine.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee and his wife Leonor Lee
Redbud seedling planted to remember Daniel Lee

There’s an additional friend of the family. In Dawn’s own words:
Pat Purcell died from Covid related complications on May 11th, 2020 in Fairfax, VA. Pat resided in the same Senior living community as my mom and was the elderly mother of Ann Lawrence, a friend of my parents from their local Lutheran Church. Mom and Pat became friends but lived on different floors and in different areas of the building. Interestingly, Pat was actually a member of a local Baptist Church but was adopted by the Lutheran pastor, Rev Sandy Kessinger who made regular visits to their Continuing Care Community. 

Redbud seedlings planted to remember Pat Purcell

Dawn spent 10 years working at the State Department before starting her counseling firm. After buying her townhouse, she became involved with her HOA replanting project, which she finds life affirming. During the first five years, Dawn planted five trees, as well as a slew of shrubs and perennials. Dawn was sidelined from her gardening last year following two minor car accidents which required physical therapy. But thankfully, she returned with all her passion and began removing hundreds of “small, weedy Rose of Sharon saplings and bush honeysuckle” that were rapidly spreading in the HOA areas. She’d learned about the importance of growing Virginia Natives and was determined to correct the situation.

Dawn’s Virginia native Trees for Love redbud and buttonbush seedlings are planted in three HOA areas in Dawn’s Northern Virginia townhouse community. Dawn received a note from one family member who expressed, “That’s perfect; thank you. Not just words but heartfelt, tears flowing, gratitude.”

When I asked Dawn for one final thought on the importance of planting trees, she responded with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes: 
“When we plant a tree, we are doing what we can to make our planet a more wholesome and happier dwelling-place for those who come after us if not for ourselves.”

Thanks so much, Dawn! You are a great inspiration to so many. 

When Dawn and I had tea on Wednesday, she explained that she planted more seedlings this spring, to remember the additional friends who lost their lives to covid after her October seedling planting. She spoke about how therapeutic nature is, and the wonderful peaceful feeling we can all receive when we stick our hands in the soil and carefully place the bare roots in the awaiting space where the sapling will soon take root and begin its slow and steady climb toward the sky.

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.


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Compost & Carbon Sink | Climate Action

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 10, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Compost is a big deal in the calculus for increasing carbon sink in our soil. It provides one of the most effective methods for the US public to assist with cutting carbon as deeply and swiftly as possible.

Peat is a compost. It looks very much like soil, but is simply partially decade vegetation rich in nutrients. These nutrients are what enable the increased absorption of carbon. Peatlands are only 3% of our global lands, yet they store approximately “30% of the earths soil organic carbon.” In light of our extreme #ClimateCrisis, peat should never be removed from its environment to be sold to consumers for profit.

Screen Shot 2019-08-23 at 3.46.33 PM.png

The ever increasing carbon levels as the global population continues to grow, demands that we each do our own part in every way possible to curb carbon, especially in light of the fact of how simple and easy this actually is.

As we hurry to build infrastructure to support solar energy and EV autos, it makes sense to simultaneously rush to improve our natural carbon storing assets, which will further the lowering of CO2 in our atmosphere.

Screen Shot 2019-08-23 at 3.47.00 PM.png

Creating compost bins wherever possible can provide the much needed extra compost for forests, home gardens, public gardens and parks. It was exciting to see a “Compost” bin at the restaurant where I ate today. It was lined up with the other options at the recycling and garbage hub. I always feel so hopeful when a business “gets it” and does it’s little part. The care and maintenance of a compost bin in a restaurant is minor, but the benefit to society is huge. It pretty much follows the same ratio mentioned at the top of the page: 3% / 30% .

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We can do this!


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© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Trees for Love | 247 Seedlings Planted to Remember Those We’ve Lost to Covid

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 7, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Gallant Gold Media is excited to share the wonderful news that 247 free redbud and button bush seedlings were distributed to Fairfax County and Northern Virginia residents to plant in remembrance of those lost to Covid in our communities. Fairfax ReLeaf supplied the free seedlings, which Gallant Gold Media distributed through George Mason University’s parking Lot P on Saturday, October 24, 2020. The Fairfax Tree Commission was the essential liaison that made this all possible, enabling the free seedling distribution to come to fruition by connecting these various organizations. 

It takes a village.

Apparently, the Trees for Love campaign is the largest community tree planting success in the state of Virginia during 2020. The Burke Centre Conservancy was the largest group of planters, distributing 146 Fairfax ReLeaf free seedlings to their Clusters and residences. The rest of the redbud and button bush seedlings were claimed by Northern Virginia residents, many of whom were moved by friends and family who’d been lost to covid and were searching to find a meaningful way to honor their memory.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1-1-a-burkeconservancy-1.jpg
Burke Centre Conservancy are big tree planters, here’s a photo from 2019

One such resident was Dawn Zimmerman. Dawn, a Virginia State licensed professional counselor, operating her solo practice Imago Dei Counseling in Fairfax City, attributes her love of nature and gardening and the outdoors to her grandfather, a midwest farmer, as well as spending her childhood in Thailand. Although born in metro Washington DC, Dawn’s father was a State Department Foreign Service Officer. From a young age Dawn seems to have become well-acquainted with the understanding of how important it is to connect with others in our community and let them know we care, especially during a crisis.

Whether it’s Dawn’s close connection to the State Department, her career as a counselor, or her passion for nature, Dawn felt compelled to enrich Northern Virginia with multiple Virginia Native redbuds and button bushes to honor the five family and friends she’s lost to Covid. Dawn wanted us to know more than just their names though, she was eager to share their stories.

Ron Ontko: Dawn’s honorary uncle, passed away from Covid related complications on April 2, 2020 in Hendersonville, NC. He was 89 years old. Ron and his wife Carol, met in Wisconsin, and after college, while in a young couples group at Grace Lutheran Church in Washington, DC,  became good friends with Dawn’s parents. The two couples went on to become lifelong friends. Ron was an avid photographer and devoted ‘Skins fan, but his career was spent in public service. After graduating high school, Ron served in the United States Air Force, before he returned to school. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Russian Studies from the University of Wisconsin and then his master’s degree in international law from George Washington University. From there, Ron worked for the NSA, the United States Senate, and the US State Department, which is quite a remarkable resume. Ron Ontko was a Freemason and a Shiner, participating in fundraising for numerous children’s charities. He is survived by his wife Carol of 62 years, as well as his son, Andrew, and daughter, Julie.

Jack “Zeke” Zimmerman: Zeke is Dawn’s uncle, who was lost to Covid related pneumonia on October 21, 2020 at aged 86 in Frederick, MD. Survived by wife Lynn, sons Steve (Andrea) and grandsons Eric and Mark of Memphis, TN; Paul of Wilmington, DE and was predeceased by son John, Silver Spring, MD.  Also survived by Mary Lee Zimmerman, the mother of their three sons; Daughter-in-Law Christie (widow of John) and grandchildren John Paul “JP” and Maria. 

The following is a loving tribute written by Zeke’s grandson, Mark Zimmerman:
Zeke Zimmerman was known to many as the “Godfather of DC Metropolitan Area Sandlot Basketball.”  GrandJack lived his life around basketball. He grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and fielded basketball teams. He formed teams from players that he would recruit from across the country. Around 1950, having teams with multiple races was unprecedented. My grandfather did not judge a player based on his skin color, but on his basketball ability. Jack was known as Zeke Zimmerman in the D.C. area. He formed a team called “Zeke’s All-Stars.” This was the first team that had both black and white players in the D.C. area. Because my grandfather did not judge a player based on his race, many black basketball players were able to go to college for basketball or even the NBA. A couple of years ago, he gave me a jersey from the 1950 Zeke’s All-Stars team. This jersey is a symbol of my family’s value of inclusion. It did not matter which race wore this specific jersey. The only thing that mattered was that my grandfather saw talent in that young man, and he wanted to help. My family still holds the values of inclusion and equality in our everyday lives, as we do not judge people based on their skin tone, but on their personality.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1-1-a-t4l-dawn-zeke-ron-1.jpg
Redbud and button bush seedlings planted to remember Zeke Zimerman and Ron Ontko

The following is a State Department obituary with a few extra details provided by Dawn:
Patrick “David” Husar, 67, died May 9, in Arlington, VA. David was born in Lorain, Ohio located on Lake Erie and 30 miles West of Cleveland. At University of Kentucky, where David majored in history, one of his professors encouraged him to consider a career with the Foreign Service. Joining in 1976, Husar served as a consular officer at posts in Pakistan, India, and the Philippines before transitioning to Civil Service. He retired in 2016 and enjoyed long walks around the Washington area, was an avid reader, and was dedicated to his faith. He is survived by his wife, Jonahlyn; a brother Michael; and extended family in the Philippines.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1-1-a-t4l-dawn-davidhusar.jpg
Button bush seedling planted to remember David Husar

Daniel Lee: Spending a few minutes on Google images to view the architectural designs that Daniel Lee graced upon all of us here in the United States, is sure to inspire. And inspiration is certainly the impulse Mr. Lee appears to have been striving for when he graduated from the Mississippi School of Architecture in 1981 and began his career in classical architecture as an intern with Allen Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg is one of the premier classical architects of the twenty-first century. The son of Protestant missionaries, Mr. Lee’s love of classical architecture sprung from his childhood in Paris, France, surrounded by neoclassical landmarks erected during the reign of Louis XIV and that continued all the way through Louis XVI. Many of us here in Virginia are endowed with an inherent appreciation for classical architecture, which dates back to the founding of our most historic cities. So it’s with great sadness that we lost Mr. Lee to Covid on August 17, 2020, at age 64. Mr. Lee is survived by his wife of 40 years, Leonor Lee, his two sons, Stephen and Christopher, and two daughters, Susanne and Katherine.

Redbud seedling planted to remember Daniel Lee

There’s an additional friend of the family. In Dawn’s own words:
Pat Purcell died from Covid related complications on May 11th, 2020 in Fairfax, VA. Pat resided in the same Senior living community as my mom and was the elderly mother of Ann Lawrence, a friend of my parents from their local Lutheran Church. Mom and Pat became friends but lived on different floors and in different areas of the building. Interestingly, Pat was actually a member of a local Baptist Church but was adopted by the Lutheran pastor, Rev Sandy Kessinger who made regular visits to their Continuing Care Community. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1-1-a-t4l-dawn-pat-2.jpg
Redbud seedlings planted to remember Pat Purcell

Dawn spent 10 years working at the State Department before starting her counseling firm. After buying her townhouse, she became involved with her HOA replanting project, which she finds life affirming. During the first five years she hand-dug holes, which is quite a feat, and planted five trees, as well as a slew of shrubs and perennials. Dawn was sidelined from her gardening last year following two minor car accidents which required physical therapy. But thankfully, she returned with all her passion and began removing hundreds of “small, weedy Rose of Sharon saplings and bush honeysuckle” that were rapidly spreading in the HOA areas. She’d learned about the importance of growing Virginia Natives and was determined to correct the situation.

Dawn’s Virginia Native Trees for Love redbud and buttonbush seedlings are planted in three HOA areas in Dawn’s Northern Virginia townhouse community. Dawn received a note from one family member who expressed, “That’s perfect; thank you. Not just words but heartfelt, tears flowing, gratitude.”

When I asked Dawn for one final thought on the importance of planting trees, she responded with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes:
“When we plant a tree, we are doing what we can to make our planet a more wholesome and happier dwelling-place for those who come after us if not for ourselves.”

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Planting Trees for Love | Remembering Covid Victims

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 4, 2020 by Noreen Wise

There’s never been a more important time to plant trees than right now. After massive wildfires scorched millions of acres of forests across the western United States, to the ongoing need to cut atmospheric carbon levels in order to reduce global warming, trees are now more important than ever for sustaining human life on our planet. The only way our children will have mature trees tomorrow, is if we plant seedlings today.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland in January 2020, hundreds of nations across the globe committed to planting a trillion trees by 2050. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2016 ranking, the United States is 33.93 percent forested area. Sadly, prior to Davos, the United States was hovering well below its potential for tree planting despite how much room we have to plant trees. Canada on the other hand, has been a top performer, planting 500 million trees in 2019. During this same year, the US National Forest Foundation planted 5 million trees, nearly double their 2018 total, which is aggressive, but a long way off Canada’s 500 million. There doesn’t appear to be a national data base keeping track of US totals that incorporates tree planting in local communities on private property, so the total number of trees planted in US for any given year is difficult to calculate. But what we do know, is that the US chopped down 36 million trees in 2019, and in 2020, in addition to the millions of leveled trees we ax on an annual basis, we lost 30 billion mature trees in the West Coast wildfires, which is staggering.

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Ethiopia is a 2020 tree planting champion, succeeding at putting 350 million trees in the ground in 12 hours this past July 2020. The US needs to rush to catch up. In most states, trees can only be planted a few months out of the year. There’s a window in both the spring and the fall. Thus, it’s vitally important that we take advantage of each and every opportunity. Homeowners have to be the drivers of our national tree planting efforts if we’re going to succeed.

Planting a tree to remember someone whose life was cut short — whether that be from covid, gun violence, wildfires and other natural disasters, a car accident, cancer, and multiple other tragedies — or is still alive but but going through a very difficult time, is a great way of showing empathy and letting others know a loved one is being thought of regularly. It also motivates us into action. This wonderful way of keeping spirits alive and communities full of hope, helps families and communities heal while at the same time saving the planet. 

This fall, we are specifically focused on planting trees to remember covid victims in our communities:

Please remember me
By planting a tree

There is no Planet B…
So let my life cut short by tragedy
Help to save humanity 

What better way to Rest in Peace

~Trees for Love, Remember Me Tree Campaign, 
by Gallant Gold Media

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Gallant Gold Media is distributing 300 FREE redbud and button bush seedlings on Saturday, October 24, 2020, from 12 noon – 3 PM at GMU, courtesy of Fairfax ReLeaf. Residents in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia can register to pick up a free seedling at GMU so that homeowners and businesses throughout the area can plant trees and bushes this fall to remember all those in our community who’ve been lost to covid. Click here to register. This is first come first serve, so please register ASAP.

If your business has any clients or employees who have loved ones to covid, a redbud seedling is a wonderful gift to let them know you care and empathize with what they’re going through. Redbud’s are a top choice to feature in the front yard landscape, with beautiful pink spring blossoms and very easy to care for while they grow.

Again, limited quantity, with some HOAs ordering large bundles, and first come first serve, so please register ASAP.

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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