Atherton to hold memorial, tree planting in honor of former town arborist | April 17, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Community - April 17, 2019

Atherton to hold memorial, tree planting in honor of former town arborist

by Angela Swartz

Kathy Hughes Anderson, Atherton's former town arborist who was stabbed to death in her Menlo Park home in December, will be honored by the town in conjunction with its Arbor Day celebration on Thursday, April 18.

Town officials and Atherton's Tree Committee will plant three trees in Holbrook-Palmer Park in Hughes Anderson's honor after an hourlong memorial service for Hughes Anderson. The town will plant a valley oak tree, because Hughes Anderson loved oaks, and two native toyons, Sally Bentz, town arborist and park manager, said in an email.

The service, which begins at 9:30 a.m. in the park, will include speakers including Valerie Gardner, a longtime friend of Hughes Anderson and a member of Atherton's Environmental Programs Committee, Bentz said.

Theresa DellaSanta, Atherton's deputy city manager and city clerk, said the tree planting is a fitting way to honor Hughes Anderson, who was active in helping designate Arbor Day in Atherton and in convincing the City Council to support efforts to protect trees for future generations.

"Kathy worked diligently in meeting the standards required to get the Town certified as a Tree City each year," DellaSanta said in an email.

Atherton Mayor Bill Widmer noted that planting trees goes "right to the heart" of Hughes Anderson's desire to make Atherton a "Tree City."

The Arbor Day Foundation awards "Tree City USA" status to towns that maintain a tree board or department, have a community tree ordinance, spend at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrate Arbor Day.

"The tree will grow and be a permanent part of our park and will be a fitting memorial to Kathy," Widmer said in an email. "If she were to be asked what sort of memorial would be right for her this would be at the top of the list. ... Her work on the Heritage Tree Ordinance, which protects our trees, is also a living memorial to her work here."

Menlo Park police found Hughes Anderson's body in her Valparaiso Avenue home on Dec. 12. Francis Wolke, a 36-year-old from Cincinnati, Ohio, was arrested at the scene and has been charged with first-degree murder. His arraignment is scheduled for May 9.

Atherton also held a memorial service in January for Hughes Anderson, who worked as the town arborist for 22 years before retiring in 2011.

After the memorial service, town officials and volunteers will plant trees around the park to celebrate Arbor Day from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The memorial and tree plantings are open to the public. Attendees can meet at the North Meadow parking lot at 150 Watkins Ave. Refreshments will be provided.

In lieu of gifts, people are encouraged to plant a tree in Hughes Anderson's honor by donating to a special memorial fund at

For more information, go to the town's website at


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