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‘If Trees Could Talk’ Paul DeJong book to raise funds for arboretum

todayMay 26, 2024 5

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Paul DeJong has helped thousands of people make their homes and yards more peaceful and pleasant. Now retired, he’s sharing the knowledge he’s gained over those years.

He’s writing a book called “If Trees Could Talk.”

“It’s going to be pictures of historical trees, historical buildings, the history of Sioux Falls, unusual trees, the history of the McKennen Park area, and the cathedral area. It’s more than just a tree book,” said DeJong.

The project started after a conversation with fellow arboretum board member Heather Kittelson.

“We walk by a tree, he will touch the tree, and the minute he touches it, he has this story about the bark and about the roots and about where it came from, said Kittelson. “That to me was, we’ve got to capture that, we’ve got to make sure we get that into a book.”

So Kittelson gathered a team to help DeJong make his dream of writing a book come true.

The team includes DeJong, who is knowledgeable about and passionate about trees; Paul Schiller, a noted nature photographer; Kittelson, who DeJong calls the glue that holds everything together; and Mike Cooper, the former Sioux Falls City Planner and Parks Director and now Arboretum Executive Director.

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For the book, Cooper is helping fill in some of the history of the city and its neighborhoods. He says when Sioux Falls was first formed it did not look like it does now. It was a barren prairie, except along the rivers and lakes.

“And so the story is, if these trees could talk, why are they there, how did they get out there, and how are they part of these different neighborhoods that we now see all over,” said Cooper.

What we see in the book will come through the lens of Paul Schiller.

“It’s a challenge to come out and capture something special; I’ll go back to a scene more than once because either the lighting isn’t right or the vegetation isn’t mature or too mature, and so it’s a journey,” said Schiller.

Schiller’s talent for capturing nature at its finest is impressive.

“All I need is one shot, and I’m pleased. And there are times when I have witnessed some remarkable things in nature, and I just look up to the clouds and say thank you because I’ve been given something special,” said Schiller.

DeJong feels the opportunity he’s been given to complete this book is something special, too.He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in his late 50’s. Parkinson’s is a disorder that affects the nervous system. His friends believe this project is the best treatment DeJong could ever receive.

“It’s so neat to see Paul just light up when he talks about this,” said Kittelson

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For DeJong, the Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum is a special place, and proceeds from the sale of the books will go to the non-profit for years to come. He says the book is something he can leave behind.

“Just because you have a chronic disease doesn’t mean your life stops. You just work your way through it,” said DeJong.

That’s just what DeJong is doing, working his way through it with friends by his side.

If Trees Could Talk, they might say thank you to a man who encourages all of us to listen.

Throne Publishing is printing the book. DeJong says they hope to have “If Trees Could Talk” finished by Labor Day.

Written by: Badlands Classic Rock

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