Celebrating 25 years of the Culver 'tree lady'

At LEFT: Rosalie Bonine gives a tree to a Culver Elementary kindergartener on Arbor Day last month. RIGHT: Bonine along with Culver's tree commission in front of a spruce given Bonine's own daughter and planted off Lake Shore Drive 22 years ago.
Jeff Kenney
Citizen editor

Rosalie Bonine of Culver has been the "tree lady," distributing saplings to Culver Elementary students every Arbor Day -- some of which have grown into majestic giants in the years since -- for a quarter-century this year, and Culver's tree commission, which was established in 2006, honored Bonine's contributions recently.

Bonine's influential efforts began more than a decade before the establishment of Culver's tree commission and the town's designation as a "Tree City USA" by the Arbor Day Foundation of Nebraska.

"Long before there was a tree commission," said tree commission member Dick Brantingham, "Rosalie Bonine had been distributing trees to elementary kids, with packets explaining (about their planting and care), and a stick to keep them from being mowed over."

Brantingham went on to say the commission -- whose other members include Karen Noll, Tom Kearns, Mike Stallings, and Ruth Taminga -- felt "it was the least we could do" to help Bonine pay this year for the seedlings themselves.

"Rosalie is very much involved and one reason we've made Tree City, USA, is Rosalie's work. We have to look to her to keep us on track."

Culver's designation as a Tree City, USA, is accomplished by various factors, including the town's annual proclamation of its celebration of Arbor Day as well as the establishment of the tree commission itself.

Brantingham noted tree commission members, by town ordinance, must reside within the town proper, which precludes Bonine -- who resides near, but not within, the town limits -- from being a full-fledged member.

"But we have many behind-the-scenes workers," he noted. "She (Bonine) doesn't expect publicity or anything in return."

He moved -- and the commission approved -- that Bonine serve the commission as an advisor and honorary member of the commission.

During her quarter-century of distributing saplings, Bonine told the commission she has given away 2,900 of them to local kindergarteners.

"I would be delighted if just half of them lived," she added.

Bonine's efforts began when her daughter-in-law started teaching kindergarten.

"I wanted to do something for her students," she said. "I always tell them how important trees are to us, and I tell them I'm giving them a baby tree for free and it's theirs to take home and take care of and water."

"Thank you for your good work," added Brantingham.

Commission member Stallings pointed out Ed Pinder Jr., of Culver, planted one in elementary school and it's over 25 feet tall today. Another one, around 22 years old now, was planted by Bonine's own daughter behind today's Odom Funeral Home on Lake Shore Drive.

For complete coverage of the meeting, and more information on Culver's tree commission, pick up this week's Culver Citizen in print or digital form (digital here: http://thepilotnews.com/content/e-edition-subscription)