It’s amazing the impact a single Christmas present can have on a community–or an entire state, for that matter.
In 1952, after serving in World War II and working with an oil company in Kuwait, Oklahoma City’s award-winning amateur arborist Stanley Draper, Jr. received a set of landscaping plans for his newly purchased home as a Christmas gift from his father. “My dad had a love for the outdoors, trees, and beautification,” Draper recounts. “He was the executive director of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, and he created Oklahoma City Beautiful. Every home he owned ended up on the garden tour.”
By his own admission, the younger Draper wasn’t as fond of the garden at that time, but the gift of landscaping plans changed all that. “From that point on, I was hooked,” he says. In fact–like father, like son–the greening of Oklahoma became his passion, and Oklahoma City–indeed much of central Oklahoma–is better for it.
Through his leadership of Oklahoma City Beautiful and the Tree Bank (TreeBank.org), Draper has been deeply involved in the planting of 53,000 trees on public land in central Oklahoma–23,000 of them in Oklahoma City itself. He also has been singularly responsible for raising nearly 50 percent of the Tree Bank’s budget for the nine years he’s been the organization’s fundraising chairperson. In addition, twenty-nine tree farms have been established in the state to continue Draper’s commitment to the greening of Oklahoma.
The eighteen-year-old nonprofit Tree Bank has transformed Oklahoma’s capital city. Among the beautification projects Draper has spearheaded are the planting of hundreds of trees at the entrance to Oklahoma City’s international airport as well as in highway median strips and city parks, especially around Lake Hefner.
“If you compare Oklahoma City today with how it looked in the late 1980s, you just can’t believe it,” Draper says. Tree Bank officials estimate the monetary value of the environmental, economic, and aesthetic benefits of Draper’s efforts at $8 million.
According to Mary Gilmore Caffrey, executive director of the Tree Bank, Draper is truly one of a kind. At age eighty-one he still prunes trees and collects litter along the roadsides of the city and state he loves, even on Oklahoma’s hot August days.
Draper, a modest man by many accounts, likes to spread around recognition for a job well done, including a dozen awards from various Oklahoma organizations. “Be sure to mention Mary Caffrey in your story,” he says. “She’s been with the Tree Bank since the beginning. She’s the one who makes me look so good.”