‘Tree of life’ planted in memory of Andrew Guthrie

Friends and colleagues of the late Andrew Lee Guthrie gathered at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park on Saturday to celebrate his life and observe the blessing of a tree planted in his memory. 

Mr. Guthrie, park manager from 1995 to 2010, died last July of renal cancer. He was 54. 

His partner, Nick Colman, said Mr. Guthrie had chosen what kind of tree he wanted: a lignum vitae (guaiacum officinale). The tree, indigenous to the Caribbean, is also known as “wood of life” or “tree of life.” It is one of the densest woods known – so hard that cricket balls and police truncheons were made of it, explained John Lawrus, who succeeded Mr. Guthrie as park manager. 

The tree tolerates drought well, he added, and should do well in its location at the end of the Colour Gardens path, downhill from the gazebo. It is marked by a plaque. 

The tree was blessed by Canon Ailsa Newby, who also conducted the service. Canon Newby officiates at St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Putney, England, where Mr. Guthrie and Mr. Colman were members of the congregation. She traveled to Cayman with a party that included Mr. Colman; Nigel Eaton, a colleague of Mr. Guthrie’s at the Royal Society in England; and Yolanda Thompson, who sang at Mr. Guthrie’s funeral in England and also during the service in Cayman. Local musician Katy Moore accompanied her on the keyboard. 

Canon Newby said the group arrived in Cayman two days before the service and went around the park on the Friday. “We were amazed at the diversity of beauty here,” she told guests. 

Mr. Eaton, who read the tribute to Mr. Guthrie, said that in his 15 years with the park, “Andrew brought it from an aspirational idea to a fully functional botanic garden.” 

Canon Newby introduced the poem “Whoever Makes a Garden,” later read by Mr. Eaton, by noting that Mr. Guthrie had chosen it. “It illustrates his understanding of what he was doing in his career. Andrew was a facilitator for a Greater Power,” she said. The poem and Mr. Guthrie’s life spoke to the good order and husbandry of nature – “the stewardship of God’s creation” for the good of the future of humankind, Canon Newby said. 

The last verse of the poem reads: “Whoever makes a garden has, oh, so many friends; the glory of the morning, the dew when daylight ends. For rain and wind and sunshine and dew and fertile sod; and he who makes a garden works hand in hand with God.” 

After the service and blessing of the tree, everyone was invited to the visitors center for refreshments and an opportunity to share their memories of Mr. Guthrie. 

One man who put his thoughts in writing was Earl Lewis, who started working at the park just six months after Mr. Guthrie. “I found him to be a man of integrity and he was someone anyone could relate their problems to. He was a very good listener and he left you feeling that you could tell him anything,” he said. 

Mr. Lewis found his boss to be approachable, caring and having a positive outlook on life. “He demonstrated great hospitality to all and he held on to his strong positive family values …. I learned so much from him, especially in how to care for and nurture plants. He taught me well and whatever he taught, he also practised.” 

Mr. Eaton, who read the tribute to Mr. Guthrie, said that in his 15 years with the park, “Andrew brought it from an aspirational idea to a fully functional botanic garden.” 

Canon Ailsa Newby blesses the lignum vitae planted in memory of Andrew Guthrie, asking the Creator of Life that it ‘bear witness to your abundant love and grace made known in our brother Andrew.’

Canon Ailsa Newby blesses the lignum vitae planted in memory of Andrew Guthrie, asking the Creator of Life that it ‘bear witness to your abundant love and grace made known in our brother Andrew.’ – Photos: Carol Winker

The memorial tree is at the end of the Colour Gardens path, downhill from the gazebo.

The memorial tree is at the end of the Colour Gardens path, downhill from the gazebo.

Andrew Guthrie

Andrew Guthrie
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