A Tree for Pat

Dark-haired woman digging with a shovel.
Kerrie recently planted a Redbud tree on the playground in memory of founding Director Pat Seery (3/16/1943–1/29/2017).

Grassroots’ founding Director Pat Seery filled the school with curiosity and joy. He welcomed students with a twinkle in his blue eyes and hearty greeting that made each child feel as if they were the center of the universe. Over the four decades he was involved with the school, kids were encouraged to think for themselves and explore the world around them.

Older man with a banjo.
Pat could be counted on to bring out his banjo and sing whenever he had the chance. Like his hero Pete Seeger, Pat liked singing folk songs from around the world as well as songs of protest and support for a variety of causes.

He helped calm parents who were new to the Grassroots model with a reassuring clap on the shoulder and the advice to “trust your child!”

His energy, joy, love, and curiosity were infectious. Pat’s booming laugh was only matched by his quiet, intense listening. When a child (or anyone else for that matter) spoke to Pat, they had his undivided attention. For many children, Pat was the first grownup who took them and their concerns seriously.

Pat helped kids at Grassroots learn all sorts of things from telling time to reading and music. He helped them learn to advocate for themselves and to speak up for others when they felt something was unjust. He helped Grassroots students learn to follow their passions and to see what new possibilities lay ahead. Most importantly, he helped students learn to be themselves and to be confident about who they are.

When Pat passed away in January, he left clear instructions about his wishes, including: “No Flowers (except hand picked): Those bought ones are being grown on the best soil in countries that aren’t feeding their own people (‘still preachin’ & he’s dead!!’)” So, we thought it was fitting to plant a tree in his honor and let it grow to be a part of the Grassroots landscape—full of color and life—just like Pat.

In his handwritten notes listing his final wishes, Pat also insisted that he didn’t want people to support Grassroots because of him; he wanted people to support Grassroots because they believe in the school and its mission. There are many ways to support the school from donations to volunteering. If you would like to be involved, we would love to hear from you.

—Garrett