Tragic Death of Advocate Honored with Living Memorial

| 4/25/2011 8:12:34 AM

susietreeAt long last, a living memorial now grows in the city of Susie Stephens’ tragic death.

Had she not been struck and killed by a bus while legally crossing the street in St. Louis during a conference in 2002, Susie would have turned 46 years old young on Saturday, April 16. To commemorate and honor her joyful and lasting legacy, a handful of bicycle and pedestrian advocates planted a Susie Tree in the shadow of the iconic Gateway Arch.

For many folks in this movement, Susie's name is legend. Even for advocates who never met her — myself included — the activist from Washington state has become a personal inspiration. Susie wasn't just a co-founder of the Alliance for Biking & Walking. She was more than a passionate bicyclist and environmentalist. She celebrated life through song and advocacy and, above all, believed that the tough work of making the world a better place is best done with a smile on your face.

After her death, Susie’s mom, Nancy MacKerrow, started the Susie Forest project, planting trees around the globe to memorialize Susie’s indominable spirit. Sinking roots into the city where Susie passed was a long-held hope for MacKerrow and her family. This month, a trio of advocacy groups — Trailnet, the Great Rivers Greenway and the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation — helped to make that hope come true.

“This will provide some closure to a terrible incident that happened in St. Louis in 2002," Brent Hugh, Executive Director of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, said in a press release before the event. "Susie was killed just about the time I was getting interested in bicycle and pedestrian issues, and it had a profound impact on me and on our work at the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation."

On the blog for the Susie Forest project, MacKerrow described the weekend as bittersweet.

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