I am bereft to learn of the passing of Tom Schelstrate, an educator who never stopped learning and who helped everyone in the room, woods or park more deeply understand trees, even when they seemed confusing.
As a student who helped to inaugurate our new training modules in 2018-2019, he asked what may have seemed to be impertinent questions, but no one ever interrupted him—or the answer. His queries were insightful, even when he seemed most flummoxed.
Professor Schelstrate endeavored to learn tree identification from their leaves and collected a notebook full of them that he carried to each tree walk. His prize may have been the leaf of an American chestnut tree that instructor Emily Ferguson noticed during a walk in Glencarlyn Park. Emily handed the cherished leaf to Tom, knowing he would treasure it even if he never saw another living American chestnut.
In the classroom, Emily mentioned that one tree has three different leaves, and Tom was aghast. “How will I ever learn this if one tree has three leaves?” he exclaimed, declaring what every other Tree Steward student present was thinking.
Tom, your questions made every tree encounter better for your having asked. I wish you peace in repose among chestnuts and sassafras, mighty oaks and elms, maples and sycamores, every tree you learned and have yet to know. When we join you, we expect a lesson.
Training Committee, 2018-2019
Tree Stewards of Arlington and Alexandria