“Equatorial Equinox #5,” a sculpture at Evergreen Arboretum & Gardens, was installed in honor of Andy Sudkamp, an Everett High School teacher who died in 2015. The nonprofit arboretum group raised money to buy the artwork, which it is donating to the city of Everett. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

“Equatorial Equinox #5,” a sculpture at Evergreen Arboretum & Gardens, was installed in honor of Andy Sudkamp, an Everett High School teacher who died in 2015. The nonprofit arboretum group raised money to buy the artwork, which it is donating to the city of Everett. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

A remembrance etched in stone: Everett teacher loved nature

An arboretum group raised money for a sculpture installed in Andy Sudkamp’s honor. It’s now a gift to city.

Andy Sudkamp’s favorite saying — “Isn’t nature wonderful?” — now has a place of honor in Evergreen Arboretum. A striking basalt sculpture stands as a lasting memorial to the outdoorsy Everett High School teacher who died in 2015 at the Grand Canyon.

Winter isn’t high season for visiting the arboretum in Everett’s American Legion Memorial Park, but a stroll past the gazebo there offers a look at a bold circular piece titled “Equatorial Equinox #5.” Created by Oregon artist Dave Haslett, it was installed in June.

The Everett City Council is scheduled Wednesday to consider accepting the nonprofit Evergreen Arboretum & Gardens’ donation of the artwork to the city.

“It’s a formality,” said Trevor Cameron, arboretum board president. “It’s on parks property,” he said, explaining that if the nonprofit buys art, it’s given to the city.

“What that means is, from that point forward we maintain it,” said Carol Thomas, Everett’s cultural arts manager. The group has fundraised for many sculptures at the arboretum, “creating a place for art and nature,” Thomas said. “It’s such a gift to the city. It’s created a destination.”

About 15 major pieces, some acquired by the city, are in the arboretum’s sculpture garden. Thomas said Evergreen Arboretum will be among recipients of the Mayor’s Arts Awards, and will be celebrated with other winners at a Feb. 13 event.

A year ago, Herald readers learned that the arboretum group was seeking donations for a stone sculpture that would capture Sudkamp’s love of the natural world. “When it’s that great a guy, it’s hard to find the right wonderful thing to do for him,” Renee Greenleaf, an arboretum spokeswoman, said last January.

Sudkamp, an expert botanical illustrator who taught biology at Everett High, was an arboretum society member. He was 55 on Aug. 4, 2015, when he suffered a cardiac arrest during a Grand Canyon hiking trip with his siblings.

“Isn’t nature wonderful?” and “Andy Sudkamp” are inscribed on part of the 4-foot basalt column, carved to resemble a crystal, supporting the circular sculpture. “That was his line,” said his widow, Mary Ann Sudkamp. Her husband not only had a favorite saying but a best-loved type of rock — basalt.

“He was so multifaceted. He knew geology,” she said, adding that Andy taught her everything about Grand Canyon rock formations when they hiked it together years ago.

“Andy was all about nature — life, plants, rocks, anything outdoors,” Cameron said. “Basalt in particular was dear to his heart. We knew we wanted basalt to start with,” he said of the selection of a sculptor.

Andy Sudkamp, shown here with his wife Mary Ann and their dogs, was an Everett High School teacher who died in 2015 during a hiking trip in the Grand Canyon.

Andy Sudkamp, shown here with his wife Mary Ann and their dogs, was an Everett High School teacher who died in 2015 during a hiking trip in the Grand Canyon.

“One of three largest deposits of igneous basalt on earth is located in the Pacific Northwest,” according to the sculptor Haslett’s OrcaStone website.

The arboretum group paid $12,000 for the artwork, Cameron and Greenleaf said. About $8,000 was raised by the many supporters who donated in Sudkamp’s memory. The rest is from the nonprofit’s other fundraising.

“The thing I really love about that scupture, it is not slick. It’s very natural. Part of it is rough-hewn and part of it is polished,” Greenleaf said. “The shape reminds you of infinity. It’s a circle.”

Sudkamp was devoted to the arboretum, his widow said. A “yard farm” they cultivated at their north Everett home had been featured in the arboretum’s Gardens of Merit tour. “It’s such a wonderful group of people,” Mary Ann Sudkamp said of arboretum members. “His family and I are just overwhelmed by their effort.”

The sculptor was in Everett in June for the installation. But the site where “Equatorial Equinox” was placed, along the fence line near Legion Memorial Golf Course, isn’t quite finished.

A tree the Sudkamps planted in their yard will be moved.

“It will basically shield the sculpture from the golf course, and create a great backdrop,” Greenleaf said.

It’s a mountain hemlock, “one of Andy’s favorite trees,” Mary Ann Sudkamp said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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