Ironwood Garden

By Jim Sollecito

You marry a girl, you marry her family. I lucked out in both cases; particularly back in the day. The younger me made life harder than it needed to be. I appreciate now the patience shown by those who stood by me, particularly my nuclear and extended families.

There are just some places where plants won’t grow and there are just some problems that don’t have a good solution. You reach a certain age, whatever that might be, and the game is over. My mother-in-law, Bev Cree, at age 96, finished her journey June 5. She completed her very full life and left us behind to carry on.

I do think she requested a late checkout, but her bags were packed and she was ready to see what lies beyond her tenure on this planet. My wife, Megan, helped her mother get both of her COVID-19 shots this winter. Bev always aimed to set a good example, serve community and be part of the greater good. As we mourn, we also marvel at the outstanding person she was her entire accomplished life.

Rock steady, but also ready to smile with her impish grin as she drove all over the country in her stick shift V W. She taught and inspired hundreds of school children, Girl Scouts and her own grandchildren, by example expecting and demonstrating mutual respect. If Bev were a tree, it would undoubtedly be an Ironwood. Planted among that tree would be flowers of many colors, all treated and cherished the same. In life we seek reliability. Just knowing some people are there gives us a measure of peace. The older we get, that dependability becomes more meaningful.

I knew Bev and liked her for more than 42 years. Some examples I’d like to share. Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without. It’s better to do things than to have things. She showed her grit when diagnosed with breast cancer at age 89. After recovering from surgery, she accompanied us to the Florida Keys; she didn’t miss a beat. After every visit and conversation, I was reminded that acceptance and perseverance will help us through life.

I invite you to join my long-held tradition. At the beginning or end of a life, plant something that will make you smile as a reminder of that special person. It doesn’t have to be a large tree, rather something that will bring pleasant memories.

Bev walked her journey. She didn’t run, but she walked all over until just her last few weeks. That healthy image will live on through my memories. Anywhere is walking distance if you’ve got the time.

Godspeed, Beverly Butterfield Cree.

Jim Sollecito is the first lifetime senior certified landscape professional in NYS. He operates Sollecito Landscaping Nursery in Syracuse. Contact him at 468-1142 or