In a poetic moment during Tuesday's Mount Prospect village board meeting, Village Manager Michael Janonis summed up the impact of Sandy Clark's retirement on the urban forest she has so tenderly nurtured.
"Tonight, the trees are crying," he said, as a proclamation was read honoring her years of service.
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Tuesday was the last day for the forestry/grounds superintendent, who retired after 37 years in Mount Prospect. She is moving back to Michigan to be closer to her elderly mother.
In 1977 Clark was the first village forester, in a public works department where the only other women were secretaries.
At the time, Mount Prospect Trustee Michael Zadel was foreman of the tree crew that preceded the forestry division.
"Sandy was a pioneer," he said. "In 1977, public works was a man's world." Although she faced obstacles, he said, "She never let anything stand in her way."
Trustees recognized Clark's determination to keep Mount Prospect as green as possible in the face of wind storms, drought, disease, ice storms, thunderstorms and a tornado.
She was honored Tuesday at a retirement luncheon in public works.
"I'm just so grateful I chose Mount Prospect for my career," she told trustees. "I came here about five days after I graduated from Michigan State. I really had no idea what this town was about. I came here and saw the gorgeous elms and just was totally awed by it."
Trustee John Korn told of the time he got upset with Clark after the village marked one of his tress for destruction.
He said Clark personally examined the tree, and "informed me that the tree was no good and it was going to be rotten on the inside. I didn't believe her, it looked fine to me.
"They cut the tree down and it was rotten inside. So for the last 30 some years I have been apologizing on an annual basis to her."
Paul Hoefert, who called Clark the Johnny Appleseed of Mount Prospect for all the trees planted under her watch, said he came home one day and found an orange dot on his elm.
He called the village and Clark personally came out, went up into the tree, and cut some wood out of it. She said, "You know what? We'll give it a couple of days."
Hoefert said, "It's got to be close to 30 years later. That tree is still there, and all because of your efforts."
Those efforts, Trustee Steven Polit said, have led to the village's policy of one tree in the village's parkways for every two residents.
"Your dedication to this village and the beautification that you have done for this village are going to leave a legacy that is going to long outlast you," added Trustee Richard Rogers.
Clark indicated that the work goes on.
"I'm looking forward to the day when I can see the storm roll in and hear the thunder and watch the lightning and not worry about trees crashing down on people," she said.