A Brother of Trees


I came to the College in 1948. What really got me started was the need for exercise. I planted most of the trees with Brother Dennis Goodman. His first ambition, he told me one time, was to cover the hill behind the Chapel.

About the same time, Brother Austin Crowley, president of the College, took an interest in planting eucalyptus trees. He liked eucalyptus, so he drafted me to help plant. They are along the road behind the Soda Center and above what had been the women’s baseball field.

Out in front of the College used to be a long row of California cedars. They shed hundreds of thousands of seeds almost every year, and I planted a lot of those seeds because they seemed to do well without attention. There’s a row of them—not all of them made it—along the foot of the hill behind St. Catherine Hall and the Soda Center.

I was primarily interested in planting redwoods. Somebody had given Brother Dennis a big nursery with glass walls, all disassembled, and he assembled it again where the Soda Center is now. He grew a lot of seedlings in there. One day, Brother Dennis planted probably 40 redwoods along the soccer field in front, and the next day the grass cutter came and mowed them all down. They were little ones, you know. They looked like weeds to the grass cutter. Another year, the grove above the old football field produced millions of seeds, and I gathered those seeds and planted a lot of them around the College. Then I brought 40 or 50 of them up here (to Mont La Salle, the Christian Brothers residence in Napa) as seedlings. They’re growing on the property right now.

I’m happy that many of the trees survived and that I got my exercise. It helped me live to be my present age. I had my 94th birthday recently.

-Brother Brendan Kneale

During 43 years at Saint Mary’s, Brother Brendan taught many disciplines, including physics, math and religion. At 94, he is still busy, contributing to two publications, Horizons for district Brothers and Educational Perspectives for SMC faculty and staff.