About a stone’s throw from the Plant Services Building, where Pend Oreille Place NE and 25th Avenue NE intersect, a young black walnut tree, freshly planted, waves in the bright afternoon sun.
Unremarkable to most passersby who are scurrying to and from campus, to Wayne Ebel’s family, this rather unassuming walnut tree represents a beloved father, husband, and former UW Facilities employee who was a skilled carpenter and lifelong Husky football fan.
Ebel’s daughter, Shaina Wright, says she wanted to do something to honor her dad, who died of cancer earlier this year.
“I know my dad left his mark by making the campus a more beautiful place,” Wright says. “He was a floor layer and the floors we walk on aren’t something that we usually think about but he took great pride in his work and enjoyed turning something that was worn out into something that looked really nice and that added to the quality of the campus. The tree is just another way to add some beauty to the campus in honor of my dad and all the hard work he put into his job at the UW.”
So Wright inquired with her dad’s former department, UW Facilities, about its memorial tree program. For a fee, faculty, staff, students and members of the campus community can request a tree be selected, planted and maintained by the university. UW Facilities will also install memorial benches. About 10 trees and five memorial benches are installed on campus each year in remembrance of those lost.
For Ebel’s family, the Grounds Management team selected a black walnut tree, in part because of the sunny location chosen but also because its wood is highly valued by carpenters and tradesmen. Historically, people also have enjoyed the tree’s fruit for its medicinal benefits and as a source of protein.
The Grounds Management team who planted the tree Oct. 10, (pictured above) from left to right, are Jacob Reyes, Kathleen De Maria, Natasha Lozano and Tina Caparas.
Last weekend, Wright and her family gathered around the tree and tied a purple ribbon around it.
“It was so cool to see this special tree right outside of my dad’s shop and to know that it will be there for a very, very long time,” says Wright. “I know he would have loved it. He loved nature and I know he would be happy to see this tree grow into something that will add to the beauty of the campus, especially in a spot that he would have driven by every day.”
Ebel worked for Facilities for 26 years as a floor layer, and his work took him from the Plant Services Building to all around campus.
Jeffrey Kopec, one of Ebel’s former supervisors, says, “Wayne was a very skilled flooring installer and a perfectionist. He took pride in his work and always produced top quality results.”
Her dad’s passion for the UW was handed down to Wright, who graduated from the University in 2007.
“He was a big Husky fan and ever since I was a little kid I knew I wanted to go to the UW because of growing up with my dad working there and going to Husky games with him,” she says. “It just seemed like the perfect thing to have a memorial tree there because the UW was a big part of his life and this way he would have something there that was almost like leaving a little piece of him there after all these years.”