Up With Trees founder helped grow, beautify city
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
5/02/12 at 5:04 AM
Before turning his attention to Tulsa's roadsides and parks, Sid Patterson planted his very first tree - a small cedar sapling - in his own backyard.
He was 12 at the time.
More than 70 years later, it was still standing.
Plenty tall enough at 30 feet to cast a good shadow, the tree wasn't unlike its planter, who through a deep-rooted interest in his community had come to cast a pretty big one of his own.
Founder of the volunteer tree-planting program Up With Trees, Patterson was still active with the organization after four decades, serving on its board and helping pursue its mission of building up and preserving Tulsa's urban forest.
"Sid was just so incredibly good at getting people to want to be part of it. He could get a bank president even to come out and dig holes," said Anna America, Up With Trees executive director.
"But he never did it in a pushy salesman kind of way. It was through his gracious, gentlemanly spirit. He was the sweetest guy."
A one-time Tulsa streets commissioner and retired civil engineer, Sidney Winfield "Sid" Patterson died April 27 - Arbor Day. He was 91.
A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at John Knox Presbyterian Church. Moore's Southlawn Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
In 1974, when a stand of oak trees had to be cut down to make way for the widening of 51st Street, Patterson, who was city streets commissioner, found himself fielding complaints.
One phone call in particular would stay with him - from an indignant high school student who wanted to know what the city planned to do about replacing the trees.
Nothing, Patterson told him, because Tulsa didn't have the money or manpower to plant trees.
But Patterson didn't ditch the idea. And eventually he moved on it, organizing a meeting of Tulsa Garden Club members, landscape architects and officials from local civic organizations.
From that meeting, Up With Trees would form in 1976, with Patterson serving as the first president.
Now in its 36th year, the program has planted close to 30,000 trees along roadways, in parks and at other sites around town, all through volunteer labor and private donations.
A Tulsa native and graduate of Central High School and the University of Oklahoma, Patterson spent 26 years with Patterson Steel, a company founded by his father.
He served two terms as the city's street commissioner in the 1950s and two more in the 1970s.
He was a member and former president of Downtown Rotary Club of Tulsa and other organizations. He served on the advisory board of Keep Oklahoma Beautiful and was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award from the organization.
He was inducted into the Tulsa Hall of Fame in 2001.
For his contributions to beautifying Tulsa, a bronze statue of Patterson was erected in 2008 in the city's River Parks at 31st Street.
"He was thrilled knowing that it would be there and might inspire someone else to plant a tree, or to educate young people about taking care of the environment," said his wife, Beverly Patterson.
Besides being Arbor Day, April 27 was also the day of Up With Trees' annual Green Leaf Gala benefit. Organizers had planned to pay tribute to Patterson and stuck to that plan on learning of his death.
"It was tough. But in joining together and sharing memories of Sid, it turned out to be a truly joyous occasion. He will be deeply missed," America said.
Patterson was preceded in death by his daughter, Ann Patterson Dooley, and a brother.
Survivors include his wife of 65 years, Beverly Patterson; one son, Russ Patterson; two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Sid Patterson (right), former Tulsa streets commissioner and founder of Up With Trees, stands in front of a statue of him in Tulsa's River Parks in 2008. Patterson, 91, died April 27. Tulsa World file