Redwood Memorial Grove
Before the Southwestern Region subdivided into 3 regions, including Founder Region; under the direction of Southwestern Region Governor Ruth Thomas Heitfeld of Sacramento, the Redwood Grove in Prairie Creek State Park was purchased by the Soroptimist clubs of Southwestern Region. The grove, consisting of 40 acres of old growth redwood, fir, and other species of trees, was purchased through the Save the Redwoods League for $10,000. The clubs donated $5000 with the State of California matching that amount.
Club members in the Region made voluntary contributions toward the purchase of the grove, and at the Southwestern Region Conference presided over by Governor Ruth there remained a balance of $600 yet to be paid. Soroptimist International of Eureka sent a rhododendron plant to the conference to be raffled. At the Sunday morning breakfast chances were sold, and the balance was raised with a surplus given to the Southwestern Region Fellowship Fund.
The grove was officially dedicated on August 14, 1949 by Past Governor Ruth and Governor Emily Zeigler. Many Soroptimists from throughout the Region attended the service.
In 1951 death claimed a member of Soroptimist International of Eureka. The idea was conceived to plant a rhododendron in her memory. For a number of years one native rhododendron was planted by the California State Division of Beaches and Parks. The practice was later discontinued for the rhododendrons were not growing in the deep shade of the grove.
In 1958 Soroptimist International of Eureka purchased and had installed the bronze box and door, adorned with the Soroptimist insignia and an etched rhododendron spray. In October 1958 the first Memorial Grove service was held at the grove. The names of 154 deceased members were placed in the niche on plasticized scrolls.
It was soon after this first service that the second Sunday in June was established as the official date for the annual Redwood Memorial Grove service.
In 1969 Willfred Keene donated $50 in memory of his wife to Soroptimist International of Alameda. The Save the Redwoods League and the California State Parks officials had a rustic bench carved from a redwood log placed in memory of Eleanor Keene.
June 13, 1971 at a special dedication a tall, a stately redwood tree within the grove was named to honor the first president of Soroptimist, Violet Richardson Ward. Many Soroptimists were in attendance at this Fiftieth Anniversary event as well as representatives from Save the Redwoods League and the State Parks.
At the time of the division of Southwestern Region into three regions in 1976, the Memorial Grove was allotted to Founder Region. The accumulated funds were transferred to be maintained as a capital repair fund for the maintenance of the grove and the granite marker.
In 2004, following significant malicious damage to the monument, it was found necessary to close the niche permanently and maintain the list of names of deceased members since 1958 in a perpetual Memorial Book. There are nearly 2000 names inscribed there.
As stated in Founder Region Procedures, the Chair of the Redwood Memorial Grove has always been a member of Soroptimist International of Eureka.
Catherine Burns, Past Governor of Founder Region has had the Redwood Memorial Book in her possession and has kept it up to date since 1976. In addition she has served as Chair intermittently since 1980 and has been Chair since 1995. The photos which appear on this page were shared by Catherine and are kept in the Memorial Book.
Violet Richardson Ward, Founder President of Soroptimist's first club in Alameda County at the podium during the ceremony dedicating a tree in her name at the Redwood Memorial Grove in 1971. Seated to the right is Catherine (Jordan) Burns, President, Soroptimist International of Eureka 1970/71. No one is seated on the platform with Catherine because all who were to be seated there wanted to be out in the audience where they could see Violet as she spoke!
* this text has been slightly rewritten in 2006 by Catherine Burns. The original was printed as an addendum to the 50th anniversary book. In Founder Region "The Way It Was", a history book written and compiled for Founder Region's 50th anniversary in 1971 and updated by the 75th Anniversary Committee, it appeared in the middle of the book, between the recaps of Founder Region activities in each decade and before the Governor's pages. The photos have all been added.