Joanie Vellutini

On January 19th, 2000 Joanie Vellutini transferred from her position as gardener for the Aids Memorial Grove to join a team at Reforestation. In her tenure at the Grove, she took a sorely neglected little canyon and made it into one of the jewels of the Park and of San Francisco. She personally raked and combed every inch of the Grove and then selected and planted more plants during her stay than all of the other gardeners in the park system combined. Once a month, she would spend her Saturday shepherding volunteers from the Aids community to help in her tasks.
Under her direction the Grove became a model for community service, attracting groups from as far as Japan. On the weekends she wasnít at the Grove, she would visit local nurseries looking for native plants to establish in the Grove or combing through flea markets looking for
old postcards of the park. She managed the ever-present flowers and artifacts left as memorials at the Circle of Friends, and once a week collected everything nonperishable and placed it in storage to be saved. On special occasions, she would collect flowers in the park and arrange them in the circle.
But the Grove was not enough. After the storms ravaged the park in Ď92, she took additional interest in other areas damaged by fallen trees. Her efforts can be seen between lawnbowling and the yard, above the Grove, and in the Rhododendron Dell. Once, when she was working above the Grove, I jokingly asked her if her beat didnít end at the path. She replied, "Itís mine now" and she, piece by piece, took responsibility all the way to the Handball Courts. There, she established a California native garden. Then, with help from a group of volunteers from the Grove, fondly referred to as the "stud muffins," she hauled monastery stones to line the paths, creating a wonderful addition to an already wonderful Grove. She worried over every plant and every placement to insure that her efforts would establish something beautiful and sustainable.
Joanie represents a combination of talent, knowledge, and commitment rare in any profession. Though she will be greatly missed by all of us at the East End, we look forward to seeing her handiwork in the rest of the Park.