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A Tree Grows – and Goes – in Brenham

Published: 6/17/2013
Sue Sheeler (Images via Houston Chronicle)
Sue Sheeler (Images via Houston Chronicle)

We should all be so lucky to have a Pulitzer Prize-winning son to write our obituaries. But even if we did, the leaves of our lives might not be so colorful as the ones on the tree painted for us by Jim Sheeler, who wrote his mother’s obituary earlier this month.

In a beautiful tribute to Sue Sheeler, who died in Brenham, Texas, Sheeler intertwined her life, her strength, her roots and her reach with that of an old oak tree outside her bedroom. When the house was built in the 1980s, the tree’s lifespan was questionable and there was talk of cutting it down. But she said no.

Jim Sheeler won his Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for feature writing when he was at the Rocky Mountain News. He is now a journalism and media writing professor at Case Western Reserve University and the author/editor of two books.

Sue Sheeler was the mother of three and an active participant in their young and adult lives – from Cub Scouts and Brownies for her own children to tree houses, zip lines, a host of activities – paddling, painting, hiking, reading – and providing a menagerie of animals for her grandchildren.

Both the tree and Sue were beautiful, enduring survivors – witness to a lot of family history of the children and grandchildren who grew and grew up under the tree and the surrounding property.

It would be no surprise then, that Sue Sheeler’s ashes would be buried among the roots of the old oak tree which survived her.

Written by Susan Soper. Soper is the author of ObitKit™, A Guide to Celebrating Your Life. A lifelong journalist, she has been a reporter with Newsday, writer for CNN, and Features Editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she launched a series called "Living with Grief."

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