In the 1960s, Dominic Vartuli, math/physics teacher, planted a sapling (from a seed that he had potted) of a California Redwood in Sleepy Hollow High School courtyard.
He did this on behalf of the life and work of Alma Hansen, then his math department chair and dear friend. There was a plaque made in her honor, never for him. Until now.
"When I saw the awesome size and girth of that tree that he planted there in 1967, I felt I had to do something to recognize his accomplishment," said his daughter, Mt. Kisco resident Katherine Vartuli, who occasionally checks in on her dad's old stomping grounds.
As impressive as this perfectly conical and robust tree is, it has a long way to grow: the California Redwoods are notorious for getting so big you can drive through their trunks.
Yesterday, in a small ceremony attended by Superintendent Dr. Howard Smith and assistant principal Anthony Baxter, Vartuli's wife Lorraine, his daughter and grandchildren, Vartuli, 83, had his moment.
After taking a tour of the school, Vartuli said he was impressed by the renovation, and of course proud of his tree. It used to live with about six other bigger trees, now gone. Vartuli nows lives in Fishkill but the family used to live in Somers at the time since "it was too expensive to live here" (this generated an ironic chuckle).
The tree is the last large tree standing in the school's original courtyard, and a rare breed here.
"It's certainly unusual to remember someone with a tree that doesn't grow here," said Dr. Smith to Vartuli. "We'll keep an eye on your tree for you."